Professor: Héctor Abrũna
Project Description: As global energy consumption has increased, there is an increasing demand for renewable energy solutions. Fuel cells represent an attractive and promising alternative, though some problems preventing their widespread implementation persist. Of particular importance are catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in the cathode. Pt, the standard catalyst, is expensive and inefficient, leading to a high cost and loss in performance. In order to address this issue, new lower-cost, durable, and high-performance materials are required. This project will follow from previous work using sputter-deposited, compositionally-graded thin films to screen compositions for ORR catalysts. Previous compositions have focused on Pt-free binary metal compositions. This project will examine the electrochemical behavior of nanoparticles of the selected catalyst composition, and will involve the construction of a lab-scale fuel cell membrane electrode assembly. The performance of the fuel cell will be compared to a fuel cell containing Pt as the more traditional cathode catalyst. This research will give a student some experience in electrochemistry, analytical chemistry and materials science.