Aiming to Realize a Low-Carbon Society by Using Carbon Materials!
Aiming for a Hydrogen Energy-Based Society
Although we need to minimize the load we place on the environment, we must also maintain our quality of the life. This presents a significant challenge. To make this possible, society needs to derive clean energy from hydrogen, and it is therefore desirable to build a hydrogen energy-based society. In order to achieve this goal, we need to establish an efficient system to produce hydrogen gas with carbon and store it for use as an energy source.
The fuel cell is a central part of the technology for using hydrogen. It is a power generation system that uses oxygen and hydrogen, and differs from conventional disposable batteries and rechargeable batteries as well as secondary batteries such as the ones used in mobile phones and digital cameras. It is able to generate electricity almost permanently as long as we continue to supply its fuel, which is of course hydrogen.
Replacing Platinum in Fuel Cells with Carbon-a Cheap and Abundant Resource
Although platinum is the most common and active catalyst for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) to produce electricity, it is an extremely rare and expensive metal that is usually found only in parts of South Africa and Russia. This has hindered the spread of fuel cells, mainly because of unstable prices due to limited reserves and lack of political stability in the regions it is found.
That is why we are now focusing our research on technology using the element carbon. Carbon enables a significant cost reduction without any concern for resource depletion or unstable prices. Carbon atoms are almost limitless in nature and are found in abundance all over the planet.
Gunma University has been researching carbon materials for 60 years. Carbon Alloy Catalysts are carbon based materials that have been developed at Gunma University after many years of research.
Carbon Alloy Catalysts can be prepared by carbonizing mixtures of metal compounds and polymers. They also display high activity for oxygen reduction reaction, which is the cathode reaction of a PEMFC. Therefore the Carbon Alloy Catalysts are now expected to replace platinum as catalysts. Joint research with a chemical company is already under way to make this technology practical.