Fueling the future with nanotubes

One of the obstacles in the way of widespread adoption of fuel cell technology is the high cost of the precious metals needed for the catalytic membrane that allows the chemical energy input to be converted into an electrical output. Platinum is an exceptional material but very costly. Now, Liming Dai, the University of Dayton and colleagues have demonstrated that carbon nanotubes containing nitrogen are more effective, in the laboratory at least, and so could pave the way for a way to mass-produce fuel cells for a wide range of applications - from electric cars to domestic power plants - at much lower cost than is possible with platinum.