U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Fuel Cell Technologies Office

Catalysis Working Group

The Catalysis Working Group (CWG) meets twice per year to exchange information, create synergies, and collaboratively develop both an understanding of and tools for studying electrocatalysis for polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) and other low- and intermediate-temperature fuel cell systems, including direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), alkaline fuel cells (AFCs), alkaline membrane fuel cells (AMFCs), and phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs). The CWG members include principal and co-principal investigators in electrocatalysis projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as well as supporting DOE personnel. More information on DOE electrocatalysis activities can be found in the Multi-Year Research, Development, and Demonstration Plan.

Description

Electrocatalysts with reduced precious metal loading, increased activity and durability, and also lower cost (including non-precious metal catalysts) as key fuel cell stack components represent one of the main focus areas of research and development activities of DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program. In particular, DOE is seeking novel transformative research leading to the development of next generation low- or non-platinum group metal (non-PGM) oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts for both automotive and stationary PEFC systems, hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) and ORR catalysts for AMFCs, as well as anode catalysts and fuel-tolerant cathode catalysts for portable power fuel cells (DMFCs and potentially other direct-feed fuel cells operated on high energy-density organic fuels).

For PEFC systems for automotive transportation, DOE has targeted total platinum group metal (PGM) content for both electrodes of ≤ 0.125 gPGM/kW and total loading of ≤ 0.125 mgPGM/cm2 (electrode area) by 2017. DOE has targeted volumetric activity of 300 A/cm3 at 0.80 V (iR-free) for non-PGM catalysts by 2017. Challenges facing PEFC catalyst development include lowering the cost, mainly by reducing PGM loading or replacing PGM catalysts with non-PGM alternatives at the cathode, and improving the durability under realistic operating conditions of the fuel cell stack.

For portable power systems, the anode and cathode catalysts should aid in meeting 2015 fuel cell system targets, defined in terms of specific power and energy, power and energy density, cost, and durability in three power categories: < 2 W, 10–50 W, and 100–250 W. Challenges facing catalysts for portable power fuel cells include reducing cost, mainly by lowering catalyst loading and increasing efficiency, in particular by raising catalyst utilization, reducing fuel crossover and enhancing cathode catalyst selectivity for oxygen reduction.

While significant progress has been made in reducing fuel cell catalyst loadings and improving durability there is a need for further catalyst research and development in the following areas highlighted in the Multi-Year Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) Plan and 2010 DOE Fuel Cell Solicitation:

  • High-performance ORR catalysts enabling fuel cell operation with ultra-low precious metal loading or with non-PGM catalysts (PEFCs, PAFCs, portable power fuel cells)
  • Anode catalysts for portable fuel cells
  • Active HOR and ORR catalysts for alkaline fuel cells (AFCs, AMFCs)
  • Cathode catalysts with improved fuel tolerance (selectivity) (DMFCs, portable fuel cells operating on other organic fuels than methanol)
  • Cathode catalysts with improved tolerance to adsorption of anions, such as phosphate, hydrogen phosphate, and dihydrogen phosphate anions (PAFCs and fuel cells operating PBI-type membranes)
  • Dual-purpose catalysts for operation in reversible fuel-cell/electrolyzer systems
  • Catalysts with sufficient stability and durability under realistic fuel cell operating and startup/shutdown conditions (mitigation of catalyst dissolution, corrosion, particle ripening, etc.)
  • Stable and low-cost catalyst supports
  • Fuel cell electrodes with structure optimized for maximum catalyst utilization
  • Catalyst layers designed for the most effective mass transport, as well as electronic and ionic conductivity, especially with high catalyst loading (e.g., non-PGM cathodes)
  • Catalyst-ionomer (catalyst-membrane) interfaces designed for high stability and minimal iR losses
  • Effective catalyst integration into electrodes and membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs)
  • Advanced methods of catalyst testing and characterization
  • Scale-up of catalyst fabrication.

In addition to the understanding and development of new-generation catalysts, there is also a need for the development and demonstration of unified methods of testing of catalyst activity and durability (in collaboration with the Durability Working Group).

Through close cooperation and coordination of the activities of electrocatalysis projects funded by the DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office, the primary objective of the Catalysis Working Group is to address and help overcome the gaps in understanding of fuel cell electrocatalysis and to meet DOE catalyst performance and cost targets.

Catalysis project descriptions from the September 31–October 1, 2009, New Fuel Cell Projects Meeting and from the 2012 DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program and Vehicle Technologies Program Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting summarize the DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office's catalysts R&D activities and accomplishments of FY 2012. The Catalysis Working Group held its kick-off meeting in Arlington, Virginia, on May 14, 2012. The group meets twice a year to discuss coordination of the projects, experimental results, and computational results with discussions centered around fuel cell electrocatalysis.

Technical Targets

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Fuel Cell Technical Team of the US DRIVE partnership have developed a set of targets and test protocols for fuel cell catalysts. These targets are contained in the Multi-Year RD&D Plan, Fuel Cells Section.

Meetings

The Catalysis Working Group holds two meetings per year: one members-only meeting in the fall and an open meeting in conjunction with the DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting.

Past Meetings:

Contacts

The following people can be contacted for more information about the Catalysis Working Group:

Dr. Nancy Garland
DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office
Fuel Cell Team
U.S. Department of Energy, EE-2H
1000 Independence Avenue
Washington, DC 20585-0121
Phone: 202-586-5673
Nancy.Garland@ee.doe.gov

Dr. Piotr Zelenay
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Materials Physics and Applications Division
MPA-11, MS D429
Los Alamos, NM 87545
Phone: 505-667-0197
zelenay@lanl.gov