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Novel materials for fuel cells operating on liquid fuels

Center of Physics and Engineering of Advanced Materials (CeFEMA), Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa 1049-001, Portugal

Topical Section: Energy and Materials Science

Towards commercialization of fuel cell products in the coming years, the fuel cell systems are being redefined by means of lowering costs of basic elements, such as electrolytes and membranes, electrode and catalyst materials, as well as of increasing power density and long-term stability. Among different kinds of fuel cells, low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are of major importance, but their problems related to hydrogen storage and distribution are forcing the development of liquid fuels such as methanol, ethanol, sodium borohydride and ammonia. In respect to hydrogen, methanol is cheaper, easier to handle, transport and store, and has a high theoretical energy density. The second most studied liquid fuel is ethanol, but it is necessary to note that the highest theoretically energy conversion efficiency should be reached in a cell operating on sodium borohydride alkaline solution. It is clear that proper solutions need to be developed, by using novel catalysts, namely nanostructured single phase and composite materials, oxidant enrichment technologies and catalytic activity increasing. In this paper these main directions will be considered.
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