Clean-Energy Electrocatalysts without Precious Metals

Organization: Los Alamos National Laboratory
Co-Developer(s): Pajarito Powder, LLC
Year: 2017

Clean-Energy Electrocatalysts without Precious Metals use earth-abundant materials to produce high-performance and reliable energy-conversion devices at the lowest possible per-kilowatt cost. One of the key drawbacks to current fuel cells is that the electrocatalysts (catalysis of a half-cell reaction at an electrode’s surface) used in them rely on precious metal catalysts—such as platinum—to induce oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) at the fuel cell cathode. As a result, electrocatalysts represent approximately 50 percent of the overall fuel cell stack cost for automotive and other applications. Instead of precious metals, the electrocatalysts developed use inexpensive, earth-abundant and easily sourced precursor materials. These precious-metal-free (PMF) electrocatalysts generate performance quickly approaching that of precious metal catalysts, but at a fraction of the cost, thus reducing the time-to-market for fuel cell technologies that provide clean, reliable energy. The PMF electrocatalysts provide a high ORR active site density that enables generation of current and power densities that approach those of platinum electrocatalysts. As a result, the PMF electrocatalysts have the highest ORR activity ever achieved by any PMF catalyst, as well as the longest lifetime of all PMF catalysts in the strongly corrosive fuel cell environment.