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Platinum is used as a catalyst in hydrogen fuel cells because it increases the efficiency. However, if I just want to make a fuel cell for demonstration purposes, I don't want to use a lot of money to buy platinum wires. What "common" metal (aluminium, iron, etc.) works the best for a hydrogen fuel cell?

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I've seen carbon used, but as far as I know only on the electrolysis end; it isn't that great of a conductor. Most metals are bad because they tend to ionize easily (and thus effectively corrode). $\endgroup$ – user7652 May 15 '16 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ for demonstration purpose it is easier to stick with platinum despite its cost. It is possible to use, say, nickel on hydrogen end and a metal oxide covered electrode on oxygen end, but the setup is a lot less reliable. Platinum wire is useful for other thing as well (say, for flame test) $\endgroup$ – permeakra May 15 '16 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ Platinum "wires" won't get you very far anyway. An old, proven design is the alkaline fuel cell, which supposedly runs very well with silver or nickel. $\endgroup$ – Karl May 16 '16 at 9:52
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I would use alluminum plates. I've already tried it once and it's a great way to demostrate how a fuel cell works but where the bubbler (hydrogen) is you'll notice small signs of corrosion after 2 minutes of use. Mine were 1 1cm thick and they did their jobs perfectly. Alluminum should be your best bet.

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    $\begingroup$ thanks, this kind of thing was what i was looking for. the experiment has already passed but I'll keep this in mind for future use. $\endgroup$ – sadljkfhalskdjfh Jul 9 '17 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ After I started my own project I've ended up using Graphite instead. They are easier to find and replace since the cost is way less. $\endgroup$ – Tonakis2108 Jan 24 at 22:13
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We have tinkered with this a little. Currently, a handful of others have been experimenting with certain blends of metals, using lower costs to create equal reactions.

I have heard a lot of different ratios of Ni/Cu and Pd blends. But a good experimental blend (if your making a reasonable size batch), would comprise of a ZrO2–Pd(x)D core, with (x) varying as a slew of other metals. This article is regarding the direct deposition of hydrogen on palladium, probably a little more refined towards what you where searching.

While im not sure how intricate your going to get with your experimental cell, here is some good food for thought., If you can create a vessel with proper pressure safety, academic groups have been experimenting with super critical fluids, trying to test metallic blends as catalysts under states past standard classical critical conditions.

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