Vehicles—Fuel Cell Power up

fuel cells
ORNL researchers used high-resolution electron microscopy to show that nitrogen-doped carbon with atomically dispersed manganese can enhance the performance and durability of low-cost platinum-free polymer electrolyte fuel cells, an important step towards use of such fuel cells in transportation applications. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists studying fuel cells as a potential alternative to internal combustion engines used sophisticated electron microscopy to investigate the benefits of replacing high-cost platinum with a lower cost, carbon-nitrogen-manganese-based catalyst. “We used electron microscopy to demonstrate that atomically dispersed manganese can act as an oxygen reduction reaction catalyst while also increasing durability,” said ORNL’s David Cullen. Fuel cell technologies hold promise for use in vehicles because of their high-power density, low operating temperature and carbon-free emissions. Yet, the high cost associated with platinum-based catalysts and insufficient durability of alternative platinum-free catalysts remains a market barrier. “Our team’s finding could open up the potential for widespread use in transportation and other energy conversion applications,” said Cullen.  ORNL researchers were part of a team that produced the results published inNature Catalysis.