Fuel cells are a promising technology for clean and efficient electrical power generation, but their cost, activity, and durability are key challenges to commercialization. Today's fuel cells use expensive platinum (Pt)-based nanoparticles as catalysts to accelerate the reactions involved in converting the chemical energy from renewable fuels -- such as hydrogen, methanol, and ethanol -- into electrical energy. Catalysts that incorporate less expensive metals inside the nanoparticles can help reduce cost and improve activity and durability, but further improvements to these catalysts are required before these fuel cells can be used in vehicles, generators, and other applications.
Now, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, California State University-Northridge, Soochow University, Peking University, and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics have developed catalysts that can undergo 50,000 voltage cycles with a negligible decay in their catalytic activity and no apparent changes in their structure or elemental composition. As described in a paper published online in the December 16 issue of Science, the catalysts are "nanoplates" that contain an atomically ordered Pt and lead (Pb) core surrounded by a thick uniform shell of four Pt layers.To read more, click here.