Highly active and durable Pd-Cu catalysts for oxygen reduction in alkaline exchange membrane fuel cells


A Pd-Cu catalyst, with primary B2-type phase, supported by VulcanXC-7R carbon was synthesized via a solvothermal method. The catalysts were physically and electrochemically characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and both cyclic and linear sweep voltammetry using a rotating disk electrode (RDE). During the RDE testing, the half-wave potential of the Pd-Cu/Vulcan catalyst was 50 mV higher compared to that of commercial Pt/C catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline media. The Pd-Cu/Vulcan exhibited a specific activity of 1.27 mA/cm2 and a mass activity of 0.59 A/mgPd at 0.9 V, which were 4 and 3 times greater than that of the commercial Pt/C catalyst, respectively. The Pd-Cu/Vulcan catalyst also showed higher in-situ alkaline exchange membrane fuel cell (AEMFC) performance, with operating power densities of 1100 MW/cm2 operating on H2/O2 and 700 MW/cm2 operating on H2/Air (CO2-free), which were markedly higher than those of the commercial Pt/C. The Pd-Cu/Vulcan catalyst also exhibited high stability during a short-term, in-situ AEMFC durability test, with only around 11% performance loss after 30 hours of operation, an improvement over most AEMFCs reported in the literature to date.

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This work was supported in its entirety by the U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Award program though contract number DE-SC0010531. The authors acknowledge the Center for Clean Energy Engineering at the University of Connecticut for free use of the physical characterization equipment. The authors also acknowledge Dr. John Varcoe from University of Surrey for providing the alkaline electrolyte membrane and ionomer.

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Correspondence to William E. Mustain.

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Peng, X., Omasta, T.J., Roller, J.M. et al. Highly active and durable Pd-Cu catalysts for oxygen reduction in alkaline exchange membrane fuel cells. Front. Energy 11, 299–309 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-017-0495-1

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  • alkaline exchange membrane (AEM)
  • fuel cell
  • Pd-Cu
  • oxygen reduction
  • high performance
  • water