Catalysis for Direct Methanol Fuel Cells



The direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) is a particular case of a low-temperature proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell (FC). A DMFC utilizes CH3OH as anode fuel and O2 as cathode fuel. Depending on the application, a DMFC is typically operated in the range of 40–80°C. DMFCs are very attractive due to the high energy density of CH3OH, thus making them lightweight devices. In fact, DMFCs can have 15 times the energy density of a Li-ion battery. Other advantages are that DMFCs can be refueled on the fly within seconds, and CH3OH is an inexpensive and readily available fuel. Furthermore, CH3OH is a liquid, thus facilitating its distribution, and it can be taken on airplanes in designated cartridges. The impact of the eventual successful commercialization of DMFCs is estimated to be large and expands into the microelectronics industry. However, significant obstacles need to be overcome before DMFCs can be truly considered to be a viable technology. Some of these challenges are related to the anode catalyst such as lowering the cost of the catalyst used by lowering the amount of the noble metal component, as well as extending the lifetime of both the anode and cathode catalysts. A number of reviews describing the technical aspects of DMFCs as an entire device are available (Scott et al. J Power Sources 79:43–59, 1999; Lamm and Müller System design for transport applications. In: Vielstich et al. (ed) Handbook of fuel cells fundamentals technology and applications, Wiley, New York, 2003; Narayanan et al. DMFC system design for portable applications. In: Vielstich et al. (ed) Handbook of fuel cells fundamentals technology and applications, Wiley, New York, 2003; Gottesfeld Design concepts and durability challenges for mini fuel cells. In: Vielstich et al. (ed) Handbook of fuel cells fundamentals technology and applications, Wiley, New York, 2009). Therefore, these aspects are not covered in this chapter, which instead focuses on the catalysis aspects of the electrochemical CH3OH oxidation reaction. However, cross-references to proton electrolyte fuel cells (PEMFCs) and related reactions are given where appropriate.


Catalyst Layer Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assembly Reversible Hydrogen Electrode Anode Catalyst 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank the editors who have provided them with the opportunity to write this chapter.



Surface area [cm2]


Alternating current


Symmetry factor


Double layer capacitance [F]


Constant phase element


Cyclic voltammogram


Surface diffusion coefficient of –COads [cm2 s−1]


Direct methanol fuel cell


Standard potential [V]


Activation energy [kJ mole−1]


Anode potential [V]


Cathode potential [V]


Cell potential [V]


Equilibrium potential [V]


Equivalent circuit


Fuel cell


Faraday’s constant [A s mol e− −1 ]


Gibb’s free energy [J mol−1]


Gibb’s free energy at standard conditions [J mol−1]


H adsorption and desorption


Current [A]


Limiting current [A]


IR [Current–resistance, i.e., voltage] drop or Infrared spectroscopy


Current density [A cm−2]


Limiting current density [A cm−2]


Exchange current density [A cm−2]


Exchange current density per catalyst mass limiting current density [A mg Pt −1 ]


Equilibrium constant


Inductance [H]


Membrane electrode assembly


Activation overpotential [V]


Anode activation overpotential [V]


Cathode activation overpotential [V]


Potential losses introduced by mass transport limitations [V]


O2 reduction reaction


Power [W]


Power density [W cm−2]


Maximal power density [W cm−2]


Proton exchange membrane


Proton electrolyte fuel cell


Partial Pressure


Negative logarithms of the acid–base constant


Gas constant [kJ mol−1 K−1] or Resistance [ohm]


Rate-determining step


Charge for the H ads/des reaction [C]


Charge passed between t i and t o in a –COads stripping transient [C]

% Qo

Indication of the number of –COads and –OHads sites in close vicinity [%]

% Qo/to

Measurement of the quality of a particular catalyst [% s−1]


Temperature [°C or K]


Initiation time for –COads and –OHads recombination reaction [s]


Time needed to reach maximal current in –COads stripping transient [s]


Charge transfer resistance [R]


Reversible hydrogen electrode


Resistance of membrane [R]


Resistance related to poisoning of the catalyst surface [R]


Standard hydrogen electrode


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Chemical Processes and Environmental TechnologiesNational Research Council of CanadaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Materials EngineeringChang Gung UniversityTaoyuanTaiwan

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