Critical advancements in achieving high power and stable nonprecious metal catalyst–based MEAs for real-world proton exchange membrane fuel cell applications

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Science Advances  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 3, eaar7180
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar7180

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Despite great progress in the development of nonprecious metal catalysts (NPMCs) over the past several decades, the performance and stability of these promising catalysts have not yet achieved commercial readiness for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). Through rational design of the cathode catalyst layer (CCL), we demonstrate the highest reported performance for an NPMC-based membrane electrode assembly (MEA), achieving a peak power of 570 mW/cm2 under air. This record performance is achieved using a precommercial catalyst for which nearly all pores are <3 nm in diameter, challenging previous beliefs regarding the need for larger catalyst pores to achieve high current densities. This advance is achieved at industrially relevant scales (50 cm2 MEA) using a precommercial NPMC. In situ electrochemical analysis of the CCLs is also used to help gain insight into the degradation mechanism observed during galvanostatic testing. Overall, the performance of this NPMC-based MEA has achieved commercial readiness and will be introduced into an NPMC-based product for portable power applications.

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