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Fuel Cells

Increasing Utilization for a Non-Platinum-Group-Metal

Company Name: Pajarito Powder, LLC
Program Office: Fuel Cells
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Email: Webb Johnson, Director of Business Development;
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Los Alamos National Laboratory


Fuel cells have tremendous potential to bolster the alternative energy sector and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. By taking in hydrogen and oxygen from the air, hydrogen fuel cells efficiently produce electricity and water as their only by-product. Fuel cells also represent one of the best options for replacing the internal combustion engine in passenger cars. However, fuel cells are currently not economically viable largely due to the high cost of the platinum and Platinum Group Metal (PGM) catalysts needed to promote the electrode reactions. The successful commercialization of a membrane electrode assembly based upon a PGM-free catalyst would result in a dramatic cost savings in a core component of the fuel cell system, improving its economic viability and producing a strong positive environmental impact.

Pajarito Powder is working to considerably improve electrode structure and perfect implementation of electrode manufacturing techniques. The company will work with Los Alamos National Laboratory staff to study, test and validate its technology. The project aims to increase catalyst utilization and fully integrate PGM-free catalysts into the electrodes for the purpose of achieving performance commensurable with predicted performance. These needs are based on the direct customer feedback, as well as on an overall understanding of the market and pertinent applications.


Fuel cells currently rely on precious metal-based catalysts to function. While fuel cells are now a viable technology, the reliance on precious metals limits cost-effective, commercial deployment. Precious metals are expensive, subject to commodity market uncertainties and, because of where they are found, subject to strategic uncertainty. PGM-free catalysts are manufactured from inexpensive raw materials that are immune to price speculation and are domestically available and therefore strategically secure. Pajarito Powder's core product offering is a high-performance, non-precious metal, drop-in fuel cell catalyst. The company is producing these fuel cells in commercial quantities and works to ensure consistent deliverability and scalability for its fuel cells.


Reducing the cost of fuel cells can widen their application in various sectors, including energy storage, mass transit, and personal transportation. Successful commercialization of fuel cell products bolsters domestic manufacturing.

Hydrogen fuel can be made using wind, solar and other forms of renewable power, meaning the technology can function as a zero-emissions energy storage. It is also complementary to renewable power systems, acting as storage during times of excess power production.

Developing precious-metal-free sources of fuel cell materials makes the industry less dependent on global markets and potential conflict zones. Fuel cell use in transportation can also help reduce U.S. oil dependence.

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