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An efficient nickel hydrogen oxidation catalyst for hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells

Abstract

The hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cell (HEMFC) is a promising energy conversion technology but is limited by the need for platinum group metal (PGM) electrocatalysts, especially for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR). Here we report a Ni-based HOR catalyst that exhibits an electrochemical surface area-normalized exchange current density of 70 μA cm2, the highest among PGM-free catalysts. The catalyst comprises Ni nanoparticles embedded in a nitrogen-doped carbon support. According to X-ray and ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy as well as H2 chemisorption data, the electronic interaction between the Ni nanoparticles and the support leads to balanced hydrogen and hydroxide binding energies, which are the likely origin of the catalyst’s high activity. PGM-free HEMFCs employing this Ni-based HOR catalyst give a peak power density of 488 mW cm2, up to 6.4 times higher than previous best-performing analogous HEMFCs. This work demonstrates the feasibility of efficient PGM-free HEMFCs.

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Fig. 1: Synthesis and TEM images of the Ni catalysts.
Fig. 2: Electrochemical HOR.
Fig. 3: Mechanistic studies.
Fig. 4: Correlation of measured HOR activities with HBEs and OHBEs.
Fig. 5: Hydrogen fuel cell performance using Ni-H2-NH3 as anode.

Data availability

All data are available in the main text and the Supplementary Information, and source data are deposited in Zenodo repository (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5885289)51. Source data are provided with this paper.

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Acknowledgements

W.N. and X.H. acknowledge the financial support of EPFL; T.W. and Y.Y. acknowledge the financial support of the US Department of Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (award nos. DE-AR0000771, DE-AR0000805, DE-AR0001034 and DE-AR0001149); F.H. and J.S.L. acknowledge the financial support of the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (starting grant CATACOAT, no. 758653) as well as the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant no. PYAPP2_15428); S.L. acknowledges the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship (grant no. 838367). We thank P. A. Schouwink (EPFL) for assistance with XRD measurements.

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Contributions

W.N. designed and synthesized all the catalysts, performed electrochemical measurements and characterizations; T.W. assembled the MEAs and performed the fuel cell measurements; F.H. performed the chemisorption experiments and analysed the data with J.S.L.; A.K. performed the UPS measurements and analysed the data with A.S.; S.L. and W.N. performed the in situ Raman experiments; L.Y. performed the four-probe conductivity measurements; W.N. and X.H. wrote the paper, with input from all the other co-authors. Y.Y. and X.H. directed the research.

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Correspondence to Yushan Yan or Xile Hu.

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Nature Materials thanks Frédéric Jaouen and Sanjeev Mukerjee for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Ni, W., Wang, T., Héroguel, F. et al. An efficient nickel hydrogen oxidation catalyst for hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells. Nat. Mater. 21, 804–810 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-022-01221-5

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