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Logo NanoCat - Advanced Catalysts PEMFC Auto


Francisco Fernandez from our partner TECNALIA present projet results
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The project is funded by FCH-JU

Call reference : SP1-JTI-FCH.2012.1.5
Grant Agreement : 325239


Project Summary

Many efforts have been put on the reduction of the Pt loading but nowadays a threshold seems to be obtained. Because the kinetics of the Hydrogen Oxidation Reaction is very fast on Pt, it is possible to use MEA with a Pt loading as low as 35 μgPt/cm-2 without any effect on the voltage loss when such an anode is used in front of a well working cathode. But, the Oxygen Reduction Reaction kinetics is not so fast which is the limiting step concerning the electrochemical processes in a PEMFC. For that raison, the decrease of the Pt loading is now encountering a plateau.

Pt based catalyst on carbon nanotubes
MOx aerogel

Nano-CAT will propose alternatives to the use of pure Pt as catalyst and promote Pt alloys or even Pt-free innovative catalyst structures with a good activity and enhanced lifetime due to a better resistance to degradation. Nano-CAT will thus develop novel Pt-free catalysts (called bioinspired catalysts) and explore the route of nanostructured Pt alloys with very low Pt content.
Catalysts are chemical species on which the electrochemical reactions are accelerated. PEMFC uses heterogeneous catalysis meaning the catalyst needs to be supported on a material in a solid phase (catalyst support). Nano-CAT will focus on the development of new supports with 2 promising sets of solutions : functionalized Carbon NanoTubes and conductive carbon-free Metal Oxide. These supports offering a better resistance towards degradation than the carbon black commonly used will address the issue of the support degradation and the MEA lifetime.
Nano-CAT will follow two routes, one low risk to ensure demonstration of the use of Pt alloys on new resistant supports and one high risk route to evaluate the feasibility of Pt-free MEA based on the use of bioinspired catalysts.
Finally, Nano-CAT addresses all technical issues leading to the industrialization of the project outcomes for automotive application by the development of high quality manufacturing methods of complete MEAs required to maintain high power density and efficiency.

Presentation PEMFC

Because of the greenhouse gas emission and the dependence to fossil energy of the classic cars, decarbonizing transport is proving to be one of the largest R&D projects of the early 21st century. Motor vehicles are one of the greatest purchases that an individual will make anywhere in the world, with ca. 800 million vehicles in use worldwide. The motor industry is therefore one of the largest global forces, employing millions of people and generating a value chain in excess of $3 trillion per year. A consequence of this colossal industry is that road transportation emits 4.6 billion tons of CO2 per year worldwide, approximately 17% of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. The ever increasing demand for personal mobility and the years of development of the burning engine industry makes the emergence of a competitive technology of this sector particularly difficult. Competitive technologies need to exhibit same range of performance with affordable prices.
The Fuel Cell is a technology of interest to replace the thermal engine and deliver power to the power train. It is currently accepted in the FC market, that Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) is the best candidate for automotive application. Thus, PEMFC will play an important role in the sustainable growth of global industries through transportation, but also for stationary power and portable applications. Although PEMFC has been widely and extensively researched and developed throughout the last 20 years, there are many existing issues to be overcome before this technology becomes more widespread. The main issues are high cost, low reliability and low durability ; all of which need to be resolved before the fuel cells can be deployed both successfully and commercially.

Thanks to its catalytic features Pt is used both at the anode and cathode to accelerate the electrochemical kinetics. The major issue is the high-cost of this precious-metal catalyst, Pt is [ 55 €/g] contributing to approximately 55% of the total system cost and since the begin of the 21th century, its price has been in constant augmentation (except a little crash at the end of 2008). In addition to the high material cost, the precious-metal Pt catalyst is extremely sensitive to CO, H2S, NH3, organic sulphur-carbon and hydrocarbon based impurities present in H2 streams and NOx and SOx in air. That low tolerance toward H2 impurities requests the use of a high quality grade H2 for high power generation. Pt is also prone to dissolution and/or agglomeration resulting in performance degradation. More significantly, Pt deposits are likely to become scarce in the coming years [40 years reserves at the present rate]. Use of Platinum as the heart of a PEMFC is one of the principal bottleneck towards the widespread diffusion of this technology.

Nano-CAT addresses these issue by proposing new innovative catalyst structures with enhance activity and a better resistant to degradation.

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