Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) announced the development of an iron-carbon composite catalyst that can contribute to a reduction in the costs of fuel cells and Li-air batteries

The carbon composite catalyst contains iron and nitrogen and uses a graphene nanoplate. It is reportedly better than existing carbon catalysts in terms of durability and performance, and allows mass production at a low cost. The researchers hope that it will be able to contribute to the commercialization of metal-air batteries.

The catalyst that the team developed using a graphene nanoplate and a small amount of iron costs only US$0.17 to $0.26 per gram (whereas platinum costs US$67.67 to $76.13) while keeping up with platinum-based catalysts in terms of performance. In addition, it can be manufactured with ease by means of ball milling and electrospinning, which are widely used techniques.

The team explained that this catalyst is especially suitable for lithium-air batteries, in which a catalyst is a key material that reduces oxygen molecules in the air into oxygen atoms for a lithium reaction. The developed catalyst showed electrochemical performances similar to those of platinum-based catalysts along with a more stable long-term performance, and the performance of the batteries is improved as the oxygen reduction reaction speeds up.

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