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Non-noble catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cell anodes

Final Report Summary - FCANODE (Non-noble catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cell anodes)

The main objective of the FCANODE project was to find proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) anode catalysts of reduced cost and competitive performance to the current state-of-the-art Pt and PtRu catalysts. The novelty of this project has been the full development of novel catalyst nanoparticles for fuel cell applications from theoretical design to the final operating membrane electrode assembly. For the first time, theoretical studies have been associated to experimental studies for the development of novel catalyst nanoparticles for fuel cell applications.

Modelling exercices through density functional theory (DFT) calculations have been initially conducted in the search for potential candidates for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) at the PEMFC anode. Critical bond energies and activation barriers of the processes have been calculated and trends in reactivities for bimetallic and alloy species have been produced. These trends in reactivities have been used for the production of a 'library' of potential novel materials. Selected systems from the 'library' have then been synthesised as model systems and a wide range of compositions have been investigated by combinatorial screening.

The main project successes were:
- The production of a 'library' of potential novel materials DFT calculations have identified potential catalysts for HOR and combinatorial fast screening has been performed on these potential systems regarding hydrogen oxidation and CO tolerance.
- The development of advanced platinum-based catalyst standards state-of-the-art platinum-based catalyst standards have been developed; while benchmarking for the adsorption, electrochemical and single cell testing programmes has been performed.
- The identification of optimum synthetic routes and optimum supports for the production of novel supported PEM fuel cell anode catalyst.
- The development of novel systems with lower noble metal content Several systems with lower noble metal content and consequently lower cost and several entirely non-noble systems have been synthesised and fully characterised within the project.

Three systems have been identified as the most promising systems with potential for reduced noble metal content or cost. Two systems have been identified as the most promising systems with zero noble metal content. Another system presenting a very high CO tolerance has been also investigated in detail. In terms of cost, the two systems with zero noble metal content appear as the most promising systems, since it does not content any noble metal. Their electrocatalytic activities are, however, much lower than that of the systems with reduced noble metal content. In terms of cost and electrocatalytic activity, the systems with reduced noble metal content present properties, which make them viable competitors to the current state-of-the-art Pt and PtRu catalyst. Five patent applications have been filed in relation with the most promising systems determined within this project. This is the reason for not disclosing proprietary information on the identified catalyst systems. In addition, more than twenty publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals have originated from the project.

As a conclusion, a novel powerful and very promising methodology based on the combination of theoretical and experimental studies has been used within this project for the development of novel catalyst nanoparticles for fuel cell applications. Viable competitors to the current state-of-the-art Pt and PtRu catalysts having reduced noble metal content have been determined within the FCANODE project. This has led to a number of peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals from the consortium and to the filing of patent applications for the most promising systems.

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