Electrocatalyst approaches and challenges for automotive fuel cells


Fuel cells powered by hydrogen from secure and renewable sources are the ideal solution for non-polluting vehicles, and extensive research and development on all aspects of this technology over the past fifteen years has delivered prototype cars with impressive performances. But taking the step towards successful commercialization requires oxygen reduction electrocatalysts—crucial components at the heart of fuel cells—that meet exacting performance targets. In addition, these catalyst systems will need to be highly durable, fault-tolerant and amenable to high-volume production with high yields and exceptional quality. Not all the catalyst approaches currently being pursued will meet those demands.

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Figure 1: Fuel-cell components.
Figure 2: Fuel-cell polarization curve.
Figure 3: Basic platinum-based heterogeneous electrocatalyst approaches.
Figure 4: Kinetic activities of the main Pt-based electrocatalyst systems.


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I gratefully acknowledge support by the Fuel Cell Technologies Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy, for grant DE-FG36-07GO17007.

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Debe, M. Electrocatalyst approaches and challenges for automotive fuel cells. Nature 486, 43–51 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11115

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