The Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) announced on Dec. 14 that its research team led by professors Kim Keon-tae and Baek Jong-beom at the Department of Energy and Chemical Engineering developed an iron-carbon composite catalyst that can contribute to a reduction in the costs of secondary batteries.
At present, hydrogen fuel cells use platinum as catalysts. Platinum costs 80,000 to 90,000 won (US$67.67 to $76.13) per gram, accounting for 20 to 30 percent of the price of batteries. Meanwhile, the catalyst that the team developed using a graphene nanoplate and a small amount of iron costs only 200 to 300 won (US$0.17 to $0.26) per gram 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 techniques in wide use.
The research team explained that its catalyst is especially suitable as a catalyst for lithium-air batteries. In this type of battery, a catalyst is a key material that reduces oxygen molecules in the air into oxygen atoms for a lithium reaction. The performance of the batteries is improved as the oxygen reduction reaction speeds up. The catalyst developed at this time showed electrochemical performances similar to those of platinum-based catalysts along with a more stable long-term performance.
“Our carbon composite catalyst that uses a graphene nanoplate, which contains iron and nitrogen, is better than existing carbon catalysts in terms of durability and performance, and allows mass production at a low cost,” professor Kim Keon-tae explained, adding, “It will be able to contribute to the commercialization of metal-air batteries and the like.” Details of the research are available in Advanced Science, an “interdisciplinary premium open access journal covering fundamental and applied research in materials science, physics and chemistry, medical and life sciences, as well as engineering.”