Perspective | Published:

Activity targets for nanostructured platinum-group-metal-free catalysts in hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells

Nature Nanotechnology volume 11, pages 10201025 (2016) | Download Citation

Abstract

Fuel cells are the zero-emission automotive power source that best preserves the advantages of gasoline automobiles: low upfront cost, long driving range and fast refuelling. To make fuel-cell cars a reality, the US Department of Energy has set a fuel cell system cost target of US$30 kW−1 in the long-term, which equates to US$2,400 per vehicle, excluding several major powertrain components (in comparison, a basic, but complete, internal combustion engine system costs approximately US$3,000). To date, most research for automotive applications has focused on proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), because these systems have demonstrated the highest power density. Recently, however, an alternative technology, hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells (HEMFCs), has gained significant attention, because of the possibility to use stable platinum-group-metal-free catalysts, with inherent, long-term cost advantages. In this Perspective, we discuss the cost profile of PEMFCs and the advantages offered by HEMFCs. In particular, we discuss catalyst development needs for HEMFCs and set catalyst activity targets to achieve performance parity with state-of-the-art automotive PEMFCs. Meeting these targets requires careful optimization of nanostructures to pack high surface areas into a small volume, while maintaining high area-specific activity and favourable pore-transport properties.

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Acknowledgements

The work was supported in part by the US Department of Energy ARPA-E Program (DE-AR0000009).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Center for Catalytic Science and Technology, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, USA

    • Brian P. Setzler
    • , Jarrid A. Wittkopf
    •  & Yushan Yan
  2. State Key Lab of Organic–Inorganic Composites, Beijing University of Chemical Technology, Beijing 100029, China

    • Zhongbin Zhuang

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yushan Yan.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2016.265

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