Nature Materials Article on PGM-free Catalyst for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell

Li Jiao, PhD’21, chemical engineering, currently working in Affiliated Faculty Sanjeev Mukerjee’s research group, was published in Nature Materials for “Chemical vapour deposition of Fe–N–C oxygen reduction catalysts with full utilization of dense Fe–N4 sites,” developing a model catalyst with scientific breakthroughs and practical significance.


Replacing scarce and expensive platinum (Pt) with metal–nitrogen–carbon (M–N–C) catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction in proton exchange membrane fuel cells has largely been impeded by the low oxygen reduction reaction activity of M–N–C due to low active site density and site utilization. Herein, we overcome these limits by implementing chemical vapour deposition to synthesize Fe–N–C by flowing iron chloride vapour over a Zn–N–C substrate at 750 °C, leading to high-temperature trans-metalation of Zn–N4 sites into Fe–N4 sites. Characterization by multiple techniques shows that all Fe–N4 sites formed via this approach are gas-phase and electrochemically accessible. As a result, the Fe–N–C catalyst has an active site density of 1.92 × 1020 sites per gram with 100% site utilization. This catalyst delivers an unprecedented oxygen reduction reaction activity of 33 mA cm−2 at 0.90 V (iR-corrected; i, current; R, resistance) in a H2–O2 proton exchange membrane fuel cell at 1.0 bar and 80 °C.

Related Faculty: Sanjeev Mukerjee

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering