Dr. Drew Higgins (University of Waterloo) has developed an alloy catalyst that is more effective than traditional platinum catalysts.
Platinum has been widely used in fuel cells. While it is effective as a catalyst, the cost of platinum makes current fuel cells very expensive. The high cost (over $1,000 per ounce) of the metal is due to its rarity. Only about 4,000 tons of platinum has been produced – in the history of the world. You can likely fit all of the platinum ever mined inside your living room.
The alloy catalyst developed by Dr. Higgins is primarily a combination of colbalt and platinum, and has proven to be surprisingly more effective than a pure platinum catalyst. Dr. Higgins is continuing to push the envelope in this field, and is aiming to produce a platinum-free catalyst that will allow fuel cell technology to be economically feasible in mass-produced cars.
For this groundbreaking work, Dr. Higgins has been awarded the 2016 Distinguished Dissertation Award in the category of Engineering/Medical Science/Natural Science.