Fuel cells are promising candidates for clean and efficient energy conversion, with a wide range of applications. Fuel cells are able to convert the chemical energy from a fuel (i.e. hydrogen, methanol) into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. They consist of two electrodes, anode and a cathode, and an electrolyte. In the anode, fuel is oxidized to produce electrons, which travel along the external circuit to the cathode creating an electrical current, and protons, which pass through the electrolyte to the cathode. At the cathode, the oxidant combines with the protons and electrons to produce water.
Fuel cell reactions involve an oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) at the cathode, which is one of the main rate-decreasing steps on platinum (Pt)-catalysts in the water formation reaction and energy conversion efficiency in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC). At the current state of technology, Pt and Pt-alloys are the most practical catalysts used to speed the ORR reaction at fuel cell cathode. The slow ORR kinetics on Pt catalysts, their low availability and high cost make alternative catalytic materials highly desirable. In the context of electrocatalysis in fuel cells, dominance of Pt-based catalysts hinders commercialization of fuel cells.
We research the discovery of novel electro-catalysts based on renewable and abundant resources to replace the Pt based catalysts for the ORR reaction in fuel cells such as heteroatom doped carbon or carbon hybrids.
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