Fuel Cells' Noble Cause

  • Author: David Bradley
  • Published: 16 June 2011
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
  • Source / Publisher: Nature Chemistry/Nature Publishing Group
thumbnail image: Fuel Cells' Noble Cause

A new design principle for finding fuel-cell catalysts could help researchers develop the necessary materials to preclude the need for expensive noble metals.

An international team has found a direct correlation between the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in a fuel cell and occupation of the σ* orbital in the metal oxide catalyst. ORR also correlated with B-site transition-metal–oxygen covalency. The finding could provide materials scientists with a blueprint for developing alternatives to platinum as the catalyst material for fuel cells and metal-air batteries, the researchers say.

The research essentially links material properties to catalytic activity and so could point to highly active and abundant transition-metal-oxide catalysts.

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