STTR Phase I: High-Performance, Non-Precious Metal Oxygen Reduction Catalysts
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I project addresses the need for greater efficiency and clean emissions in power generation systems. Of particular relevance and potential impact would be the application of fuel cell systems in vehicles. However, the cost of platinum-based fuel cell oxygen-reduction electrocatalysts comprises a substantial portion of the system cost, and a major upgrade in the catalytic activity of non-precious metal catalysts would offer an alternative that could greatly improve the economics for vehicles powered by fuel cells. The key overall objective of the project is to attain non-precious metal oxygen-reduction catalyst activity per unit volume that meets the 2010 Department of Energy target of 130 amperes per cubic centimeter (iR-free at 0.8 volts and 80ýýC). Research objectives directed toward this goal focus on increased understanding of the nature of the catalyst's active site and on a major increase in the density of accessible active sites. The influence of precursor chemistry and morphology, synthesis methodologies, and electrode fabrication will be emphasized. Progress toward objectives will be guided by physical and electrochemical characterizations. Electrodes utilizing leading catalyst formulations will be fabricated and optimized for composition and morphology using fuel cell testing methodologies for membrane-electrode assemblies. The most significant
impacts of this research will be in the areas of environmental benefits - reduction of toxic and greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, and commercial benefits - and the creation and preservation of new jobs in the automotive and related industries. The market penetration of efficient, non-polluting fuel cell powered vehicles depends on cost reductions and achievement of acceptable performance, lifetime, and safety. Achievement of the goals of this project would permit the replacement of platinum in the oxygen reduction catalyst, which addresses a cost that can be estimated at $600 per vehicle for a 50-kW system costing $5,000. Although the activity of pyrolized metal/nitrogen/carbon (MNC) catalysts has been known for over 20 years, the nature of the active site is not yet clear because of the complexities introduced by pyrolysis and high-surface-area supports. Such lack of understanding has hindered the engineering and implementation of these catalysts in fuel cell applications. The activities of this project seek to address this shortcoming by detailed study of the nature of the active site, combined with engineering studies to amplify site density. One undergraduate and one female graduate student will be supported by the project.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Research Institution Information:
Gibbard Research and Development Corp.
14 Plumer Road Epping, NH 03042
Number of Employees:
Michigan State University
3900 Collins Road
Lansing, MI 48910 6000
Michael R. Poterala
Nonprofit college or university