For PEM Fuel Cells to attain economic viability for mass production, catalyst cost must be reduced. Currently, platinum-based supported nanoparticle catalysts, are used for the hydrogen oxidation reaction at the anode. The replacement of such catalysts by cheaper non-noble alternatives is proposed. Currently, noble metal based systems alone exhibit both the stability required in the strongly acidic humidified environment of the fuel cell, and the sufficiently large current densities required. Hence, the challenge is to find binary, ternary or even quaternary non-noble systems, which have the necessarily high rates of hydrogen oxidation and which are stable in the environment of the fuel cell.
In addition, new developments in membrane technology highlight the need to explore the performance of catalysts in a higher temperature regime (in the region of 130-200°C). To accomplish these aims the following novel route will be used involving a multidisciplinary approach from theoretical design through to the final operating membrane electrode assembly. Initially, Density Functional Theory studies will be used to calculate critical bond energies and activation barriers of processes relevant to the fuel cell electrodes and produce trends in reactivities for metal alloy species and intermetallic compounds.
The next step will be the fast screening of catalysts for these descriptors using combinatorial methods. These two preliminary steps will determine the most promising systems and compositions to take forward into the subsequent stages. The selected catalysts will then be produced as carbon-supported nanoparticles and subsequently investigated with regards to their performance for the hydrogen oxidation reaction, their stability to acidic media and tolerance to CO and CO2. Finally, the behaviour and stability of selected catalysts will be assessed within the single cell environment and their potential for large-scale production investigated.
- FP6-NMP - Nanotechnologies and nanosciences, knowledge-based multifunctional materials and new production processes and devices: thematic priority 3 under the 'Focusing and integrating community research' of the 'Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area' specific programme 2002-2006.
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