Pitt | Swanson Engineering
DMFC anode electro-catalyst

DMFC anode electro-catalyst

Cost and durability present two of the most significant challenges affecting the widespread commercialization of fuel cells for diverse applications encompassing stationary power, transportation power, portable power, auxiliary power units, and material handling equipment. Of the different fuel cell types, proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), utilizing hydrogen as the fuel operating at low temperature (120 deg. C), has been considered for applications that require faster start-up times, and frequent starts and stops. On the other hand, methanol powered direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) are well suited for portable power applications in consumer electronic devices wherein the power requirements are low. A significant fraction of the cost arises due to the prohibitively expensive platinum group-metal (PGM) catalysts that are currently used in the anode and cathode to accelerate the electrochemical reactions. Design and synthesis of effective electro-catalysts with improved electrochemical activity, improved durability/stability, reduced precious metal loading to ultra-low level and increased tolerance to air, fuel and system-derived impurities is of paramount importance. In this context, a novel complex sol-gel process (CSG) has been developed by our group to synthesize unsupported nanocrystalline Pt-Ru based binary, ternary and quaternary solid solution having high electrochemically active surface area with excellent electrochemical activity and durable microstructure for the methanol oxidation reaction. Our electro-catalysts thus have the ability to reduce the noble metal loading to an ultra low level.

The polarization curve CSG-Pt(Ru) and commercially available JM-Pt(Ru) tested at 40°C at a scan rate of 10mV/sec.

TEM images along with SAD pattern of CSG-Pt(Ru) shows the formation of unsupported nanocrystalline Pt(Ru) alloy (~3-5nm) and the corresponding HRTEM images shows lattice fringes of (111) plane of Pt(Ru) with an interplanar spacing ~0.225nm.

Publication: Y.M. Alyousef, M.K. Datta, K. Kadakia, S.C. Yao, P.N. Kumta, “Sol-gel synthesis of Pt-Ru-Os-Ir based anode electro-catalysts for direct methanol fuel cells”, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 506 (2010) 698-702.

Affiliated lab members: Karan Kadakia and Moni Kanchan Datta