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Assessing the Technical and Business Feasibility of Highly-active and Stable Intermetallic Pt-alloy Catalysts for Application in PEMFCs

Project description

Next-generation intermetallic platinum-alloy catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cells

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are important in the race towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions in both the transport and energy sectors. For their efficient operation, PEMFCs require large quantities of scarce and expensive platinum present in the catalyst. The ERC-funded StableCat project identified crucial weaknesses in the commercial platinum-based catalysts and obtained novel atomic-scale structural understanding. With that, researchers devised a new synthesis strategy that enables them to combine three crucial pillars within the same catalyst material – high platinum surface area, catalytic activity and durability. This new strategy also enabled them to achieve a 50 % reduction of required platinum for efficient PEMFC operation already today, with the full potential yet to be unleashed.


Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) are crucial in the race towards cutting the greenhouse gas emissions – covering 90.7% of total fuel cell market share already in 2018. PEMFCs as a zero-carbon technology converts hydrogen, as a fuel, and oxygen from the air into clean electricity, with water being the only by-product. In doing so, the catalyst material plays a crucial role.

Currently, the most promising strategy is to use scarce and expensive platinum (Pt) in the form of carbon-supported nanoparticles (NPs) that are alloyed with a less expensive metal M (e.g. M = Ni, Co or Cu; Pt-M/C). However, current commercial catalyst solutions cannot yet combine the ‘three-pillars’ within the same material – (i) high electrochemically active surface area (ECSA), (ii) high catalytic activity and (iii) high stability.

Thus, the StableCat project addresses the pressing need for the improvements of commercial catalysts by obtaining atomic-scale structural understanding. A unique methodological approach developed in project ERC StG 123STABLE resulted in a novel synthesis strategy that, for the first time, combines all three-pillars within the same catalyst material, and will pave the innovative way as an enabler for mass commercialisation of PEMFC technology.

Our investigation revealed that 123STABLE catalysts exhibit up to 40% increase in ECSA, a 2-3 fold increase in catalytic activity, as well as an intermetallic crystal structure with increased stability towards corrosion. In addition, the new synthesis approach has also revealed significant potential at reducing the amount of Pt in PEMFCs (50% reduction possible already today). The goal of StableCat is to conduct technical and business activities necessary to enter the commercialisation phase, preferably in a form of a Spin-out company.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 80 000,00
1000 Ljubljana

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Slovenija Zahodna Slovenija Osrednjeslovenska
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (3)