A new microscope for the future of hydrogen cars

The Pavia University Department of Chemistry’s GreenMat research team led by Piercarlo Mustarelli has built an innovative Magnetic Resonance microscope. Based on the same MRI technology used in the medical field, the microscope allows to see how a fuel cell performs when in operation and therefore improve current fuel cell technology. The instrument can be used also for other energy technologies such as photovoltaic cells and batteries.

Research findings have been published in Energy and Environmental Science, the most prestigious international scientific journal in the energy and environmental science field.

The research project was supported by a Fondazione Cariplo’s Frontier Research grant.

Frontier Research grants were launched by Fondazione Cariplo in 2011 to support projects  that push the boundaries of science and innovation and as such “may fail, but when successful are true engines of innovation.” Giuseppe Guzzetti, Fondazione Cariplo’s President, said: “These grants are a way to support scientists working on projects exploring exceptionally innovative ideas that cannot be supported under other research grant programs of our Foundation. Scientists put their minds to work and we are now seeing the first results of a project that appeared visionary. This, too, is what modern philanthropy is about.

The panel of experts who selected the project worthy of our Frontier Research grant included world-class figures testifying to the standards of excellence against which projects were measured. These experts included: Aaron Ciechanover, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Gerhard Ertl, Fritz-Haber Institut Max-Planck, 2007 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Oliver Guthmann, Investment Manager, Basf Venture; Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, Carnegie Mellon University, winner of the 2011 Wolf Prize in Chemistry; Phillip Szuromi, Supervisor Senior Editor, Science, (areas of responsibility: chemistry, physics and materials science).

The automotive industry will mass launch hydrogen fuel cell cars in 2017. This represents a paradigm shift which in few years may lead to the replacement of combustion engine vehicles. Researchers are still working intensely to improve the efficiency, durability and safety of materials and fuel cells as a whole. The Pavia University team’s research will most certainly drive further innovation.