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Reference Number EP/G06704X/1
Title Collaborative Research Opportunities in Energy with South Africa: Ab-Initio development and testing of fuel cell catalysts
Status Completed
Energy Categories HYDROGEN and FUEL CELLS(Fuel Cells, Mobile applications) 100%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields PHYSICAL SCIENCES AND MATHEMATICS (Chemistry) 100%
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Not Cross-cutting 100%
Principal Investigator Prof A (Anthony ) Kucernak
No email address given
Imperial College London
Award Type Standard
Funding Source EPSRC
Start Date 05 October 2009
End Date 04 October 2013
Duration 48 months
Total Grant Value £618,602
Industrial Sectors Energy
Region London
Programme Energy : Energy
Investigators Principal Investigator Prof A (Anthony ) Kucernak , Chemistry, Imperial College London (99.998%)
  Other Investigator Dr T Albrecht , Chemistry, Imperial College London (0.001%)
Professor NP (Nigel ) Brandon , Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London (0.001%)
  Recognised Researcher Dr D (Dennis ) Kramer , Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton (0.000%)
  Industrial Collaborator Project Contact , Johnson Matthey Technology Centre (0.000%)
Project Contact , University of Cape Town, South Africa (0.000%)
Project Contact , Mintek, South Africa (0.000%)
Web Site
Abstract The proposers have been closely involved in meetings with the key groups leading a new South African programme in catalysis. This proposal has emerged from these discussions, and is timely given the imminent launch of the ten year strategic programme in South Africa, and the establishment of the new Catalysis Competence Centre at the University of Cape Town and Mintek. It is closely aligned to the goals of the "Collaborative Research Opportunities in Energy with South Africa" call.Oxygen reduction may be considered one of the "Grand Challenges" faced by us in energy research. Success in this area may lead to at least a 20% improvement in the efficiency of low temperature fuel cell systems and a significant cost reduction in fuel cells. The most active and stable catalyst for oxygen reduction in low temperature fuel cells is platinum, which unfortunately is somewhat rare. Consequently, platinum particles with ever decreasing diameter are employed today to providethe largest amount of catalytic surface per precious metal atom. Yet nano-scale platinum particles are less stable than bulk platinum and provide inferior catalytic activity. Indeed, bulk platinum shows an oxygen reduction activity per surface atom which is about 20-times higher than for an atom on a 2.5 nm particle. If we could achieve the same surface reactivity for the oxygen reduction reaction in these ultra small particles as for bulk platinum, then we would be able to produce fuel cellpowered cars with no more precious metal in them than the amount which is in the catalytic exhaust system of today's cars.The engineering of binary core-shell nanoparticles is a promising approach to achieve this goal. These catalysts consist of a core of inexpensive metal surrounded by a "shell" of precious metal. An obvious advantage of this approach is the reduction in required platinum as all the platinum is restricted to the surface of the particles. Additionally, structural and electronic properties of this surface platinum are altered potentially leading to improved stability and activity. The preparation of a few examples of particles with different cores is reported in the literature with indications of superior catalytic activity. However little is known about their thermodynamic stability, nor the likely composition of the best core-shell catalysts.The aim of this project is to produce a range of stable core-shell catalyst which have a platinum mass activitywhich is twenty times higher than the mass activity for a platinum catalyst of the same particle size. Such an improvement would allow a near 20-fold drop in platinum requirement in current fuel cells and thus significantly surpass the goals of the Department of Energy (USA) in required catalyst performance. Our approach is to link together both computational materials discovery with advanced testing procedures to efficiently map a large range of possible materials. Synthesis and testing of asmall number of catalysts will be utilised to assure us that the computational search approach is operating efficiently and accurately.The proposal benefits from the significant research input being expended by our South African partners. They will match the manpower requested for this proposal (one PDRA, one PhD and staff time), and will take on a significant portion of the research effort funded through the South African Hydrogen Catalysis Competence Centre at the University of Capetown andMintek
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 16/06/09