Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have discovered a catalyst that provides the same level of efficiency in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) as the currently used platinum catalyst, but at 5% of the cost. The discovery could lead to more affordable energy conversion and storage devices. The material -- nitrogen-enriched iron-carbon nanorods -- has the potential to replace the platinum catalyst used in hydrogen-producing microbial electrolysis cells (MECs). The scientists also found that the nanorod catalyst outperformed a graphene-based alternative being developed elsewhere. The material was tested against two other contenders to replace platinum. The found the nanorods’ performance consistently superior over a six-month period.