One of the biggest cost drivers for electrolyzers and
is the need for precious metals like platinum to act as catalysts. At $1,700-2,000 per ounce, it can rapidly drive the costs of a fuel cell through the roof. As a result one of the main areas of development in fuel cells has been reduced use of catalysts and new catalyst materials. MIT Chemist Daniel Nocera has been working on this problem and discovered that cobalt and phosphate may make an excellent substitute in electrolyzers. At $2.25 an ounce and $.05 an ounce, respectively the new catalysts have a huge cost advantage and reportedly are just as effective. Nocera and his team came to the realization by studying how photosynthesis in plants works to split water into its component elements. On the fuel cell side Chemist Bjorn Winther-Jensen of Monash University in Australia have developed a polymer material that is as effective as platinum in turning
and oxygen into electricity and water. While it is not as cheap as the cobalt and phosphate, at $57 an ounce it is still a tiny fraction of the cost of the precious metal.