Ali Abdelhafiz2 Jianhuang Zeng1 Bote Zhao2 Meilin Liu2

2, Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, United States
1, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, , China

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) have tremendous potential to be the preferred power sources for many emerging technologies, from electric vehicles to portable/mobile devices and smart grids, because of their numerous inherent advantages such as high efficiency, high energy density, low emissions, and fast start-up and shut-down capability. While PEMFCs are expected to use platinum group metal (PGM)-based catalysts in the near-term, the cost of the Pt-based catalyst alone constitutes over 40% of the fuel cell stack cost. Enormous efforts have been devoted to reducing the high cost of catalyst. To date, the catalysts can be classified into three groups according to the active component used: PGM-based catalyst (supported on carbon or other supports); PGM-based catalysts that are modified or alloyed with other metals such as Cu, Co, and Ru; and PGM-free catalysts such as non-noble metals and organometallic complexes. PGM-free catalysts are attractive for cost reduction of PEMFC technology, however, in reality is still a long way to go to before they can be used to run actual fuel cell application. Here in, we are proposing a facile, one-step, synthesis of Pt-based alloy nanoparticles for cost effective low temperature oxygen reduction reaction electrocatalysis at industrial scale.

Direct Pt nanoparticles synthesis is performed under room temperature to form a branched triple and quadruple-pods particles with an average size of ~3.5 nm, as confirmed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) analysis. Rotating disc electrode (RDE) setup is used to probe ORR. Results showed that synthesized Pt-nanoparticles superior catalytic activity for oxygen reduction reaction compared to state of the art Pt-XC/72R commercial catalyst. Pt-nanoparticles periphery are conformed of high index family crystallographic planes, as observed by STEM analysis. High index planes contain lower density of kinks, which optimize the adsorption/desorption energies to be neither too weak nor too strong. Pt-nanoparticles under accelerated durability testing (ADT) outperform their state of the art commercial catalyst counterparts, surviving 81% of electrochemical active surface area (ECSA) after 10,000 testing cycles.

Using a catalyst coated membrane (CCM) technique membrane electro assembly (MEA) was prepared to test Pt nanoparticles under actual PEMFC operation conditions (i.e. temperature and humidity). MEA prepared using the synthesized Pt-nanoparticles outperformed their counterparts prepared by Pt-XC/72R state of the art commercial catalyst with 27% enhancement factor. The reported Pt-based nanoparticles propose a competitive and more efficient synthesis route to prepare large scale commercial catalyst without the need of sophisticated apparatus or special heating conditions.