Low-platinum-group-metal-loading hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells enabled by synergistic Pt-Ru-nitrogen-doped-carbon catalysts for the hydrogen oxidation reaction



Hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cell (HEMFC) is a potentially cost-effective energy conversion technology. However, current state of the art HEMFCs require a high loading of platinum-group-metal (PGM) catalysts, especially for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR). Here we develop a porous nitrogen-doped carbon-supported PtRu HOR catalyst (PtRu/pN-C) that has the highest reported intrinsic and mass activity in alkaline condition. An HEMFC with a low loading of this catalyst and a commercial Fe-N-C oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalyst achieves the highest reported PGM utilization rate. The current density at 0.65 V of this HEMFC reaches 1.5 A/cm2, exceeding the US DOE 2022 target (1 A/cm2) by 50 %. Spectroscopic and microscopic data indicate the presence of Pt single atoms (SAs) in addition to PtRu nanoparticles on pN-C. Mechanistic study suggests Ru modulates the electronic structure of Pt for an optimized hydrogen binding energy, while Pt-SAs on pN-C optimize the interfacial water structure. These synergetic interactions are responsible for the high catalytic activity of this catalyst.


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