Funded to figure out why fuel cells break down – University of Copenhagen

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08 December 2010

Funded to figure out why fuel cells break down

Fuel cells could replace combustion engines and save the climate. Except for one thing. They are still not stable enough to run for years. But now a researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Department of Chemistry has been awarded a grant to investigate why fuel cell catalysts are unstable, and how to avoid their degradation.

By Jes Andersen

Matthias Arenz in his Copenhagen lab

Dare to know thanks to great grant 

Matthias Arenz receives the eight million DKK Sapere Aude grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research. Sapere Aude means "dare to know". And when it comes to knowing Doctor Arenz is quite daring. For some years he has worked on characterizing catalysts in fuel cells but he has remained dependent on others to actually build the catalysts.

How to avoid degradation 

With the four years of funding bought by the grant he plans to hire two PhD's and a postdoc. Not least to get someone on the team who can synthesise new model catalysts.
"Each catalyst degrades differently, but we don't know what controls these differences. I want to know what happens and how to avoid degradation", explains Arenz.

Arenz dreams of a future with affordable fuel cell cars 

Simple models usher in cheap fuel cells

By investigating the degradation of simple model catalysts Arenz hopes to discover a theoretical framework, which will allow future catalyst builders to predict how different building methods will affect the stability of their catalyst.

"My dream is that I will one day be able to buy a fuel cell car. Not because my salary has gone up, but because fuel cell prices have gone down", smiles Arenz.

Helped in introduction to Denmark

Matthias Arenz is from Aachen in Germany, and has lived in Denmark for just ten months. To him the grant is a confirmation that coming to Denmark was the right decision.
"For my science I need people and money. But when you come to a new country nobody knows you. Being able to employ somebody means that more people get to know you. So there is a self-perpetuating process", explains Matthias Arenz.