A new catalyst for converting methanol to hydrogen is reported in Nature Communications this week. The catalytic reaction proceeds at the relatively low temperature of 160 oC and produces no detectable carbon monoxide which may prove useful in the development of fuels cells for use in small portable devices.
It has been suggested that proton exchange membrane fuel cells may eventually power our mobile devices, such as laptops and tablets. However, they require the local production of hydrogen free from carbon monoxide, as this damages the fuel cell. Edman Tsang and his colleagues use a catalyst made of copper nanoparticles trapped in zinc gallium oxide, which produces hydrogen with sufficiently low carbon monoxide content that it could be fed directly into fuel cells without further purification.
The low levels of carbon monoxide, and low temperature of the reaction, make this system ideal for personal electronic devices where space and heat management are at a premium.