From: DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Published August 3, 2017 02:40 PM

Study reveals exactly how low-cost fuel cell catalysts work

In order to reduce the cost of next-generation polymer electrolyte fuel cells for vehicles, researchers have been developing alternatives to the prohibitively expensive platinum and platinum-group metal (PGM) catalysts currently used in fuel cell electrodes. New work at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge national laboratories is resolving difficult fuel-cell performance questions, both in determining efficient new materials and understanding how they work at an atomic level. The research is described this week in the journal Science.

“What makes this exploration especially important is that it enhances our understanding of exactly why these alternative catalysts are active,” said Piotr Zelenay, leader of the project at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We’ve been advancing the field, but without understanding the sources of activity;  without the structural and functional insights, further progress was going to be very difficult.”

Building on previous studies, the Los Alamos-led team has synthesized catalysts comprising low-cost platinum alternatives that yield performance comparable to the standard PGM fuel cell catalyst used in vehicle applications. Using sophisticated microscopy at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), researchers were able to directly observe the single-atom active sites in the novel material where catalysis takes place, which provided unique insights into the PGM-free material’s efficiency potential.

Read more at DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

Image: This is Los Alamos National Laboratory's Piotr Zelenay, Ted Holby and Hoon Chung. (Credit: Los ALamos National Laboratory)

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