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Next-Generation Catalysts for Fuel Cells

Materials-by-Design Approach Leads to High-Durability, High-Activity Catalysts

Argonne National Laboratory

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Nenad Markovic and Vojislav Stamenkovic, developers of electrocatalytic technology
Nenad Markovic and Vojislav Stamenkovic, developers of electrocatalytic technology

Technology Marketing Summary

Argonne scientists have developed a rational design of catalysts for chemical reactions in fuel cells. The approach could lead to a new generation of electrochemical materials for efficient and clean energy conversion. Today, approximately 30 grams of platinum (Pt) are used to catalyze the electrochemical reaction in a fuel cell. At today’s prices, the cost of this amount of Pt catalyst material is almost $1,600. Argonne’s new, improved catalyst materials could dramatically reduce the current cost of fuel cell catalysts because less Pt is required for the electrochemical reaction.


Argonne scientists successfully created the new catalyst materials for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) that are not only active, but stable over wide potential ranges and operating conditions. Using a “materials-by-design" approach, researchers developed a new multi-metallic catalyst that is highly active and durable for the oxygen-reduction reaction in PEMFCs. Using novel synthetic routes to develop shape-controlled nanoparticles with a metallic core and different metallic shell, Argonne researchers demonstrated that the catalyst nanoparticles possess high catalytic activity comparable to that of Pt-bimetallic alloys—and offers superior durability. The new catalyst exhibits enhanced mass-activity, more than one order of magnitude over Pt bulk catalysts. This discovery sets a new bar for catalytic activity of the cathodic reaction in fuel cells, which will help bring PEMFCs for hydrogen-powered vehicles closer to massive commercialization. Scientists also expect the technology to make overarching contributions to other areas of science well beyond the focus on electrocatalysis.

  • Can reduce the cost of PEMFCs by significantly reducing the amount of Pt used
  • Enables the development of new nanoscale catalyst materials using a “materials-by-design" approach, saving time and development energy to achieve comparable results
  • Promotes development of a new systematic approach for development of nanoscale materials for energy conversion and other applications
  • Enables faster achievement of energy independence
  • Reduces carbon emissions through faster and effective use of fuel cells
Applications and Industries
  • Automotive
  • Hydrogen-based energy systems
  • Process manufacturing
  • Solar and alternative energy conversion
Technology Status
Development StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
Development - Proof of concept has been demonstrated.Available06/02/201003/25/2011

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To: Elizabeth Jordan<>