UCLA researchers in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering have developed a fuel cell catalyst system comprised of platinum-based alloys with a novel carbon support. The fuel cell has improved mass activity targets and increased stability.
Proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are of considerable interest for direct chemical-to-electrical energy conversion and may represent an ultimate solution for mobile power supply. Currently, commercialization is limited by the sluggish kinetics of the cathodic oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), which requires a significant amount of platinum (Pt)-based catalyst with a substantial contribution to the overall cost. Additionally, even though the performance achieved in some of the most advanced ORR catalysts has far exceeded the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) target for mass activity in a device, none such extraordinary performance metrics has been successfully translated into real fuel cell devices. An effective and simple synthetic approach to address these challenges is to grow nanoparticles on carbon supports directly. The adoption of advanced catalyst supports with high conductivity, sufficient corrosion resistance and strong chemical interactions can offer an additional degree of freedom to tune the ORR catalysts. Hence, the combination of Pt-nanocatalysts and advanced support materials with well-defined interfacial interactions may offer a powerful pathway to advance ORR catalysts with superior performance.
UCLA researchers have invented a type of highly stable and active materials Pt-based alloy loaded on a novel carbon support, which is developed through carbon engineering. The fuel cell performance of the catalysts is significantly improved, leading to mass activity values above the DOE target. The material design is innovative; simple in term of synthesis and preparation; and stable enough to be stored at room temperature. This novel method of design and manufacturing on Pt-based alloys on novel carbon-support structures could allow the development cost-effective and efficient fuel cells to be used as portable power generators.
Model fuel cells have been synthesized and their activity and density performance tested at the lab scale.