Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Branko Popov


Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are attractive power sources of the future for a variety of applications including portable electronics, stationary power, and automobile application. However, sluggish cathode kinetics, high Pt cost, and durability issues inhibit the commercialization of PEMFCs. To overcome these drawbacks, research has been focused on alloying Pt with transition metals since alloy catalysts show significantly improved catalytic properties like high activity, selectivity, and durability. However, Pt-alloy catalysts synthesized using the conventional impregnation method exhibit uneven particle size and poor particle distribution resulting in poor performance and/or durability in PEMFCs. In this dissertation, a novel catalyst synthesis methodology is developed and compared with catalysts prepared using impregnation method and commercial catalysts. Two approaches are investigated for the catalyst development. The catalyst durability was studied under U. S. DRIVE Fuel Cell Tech Team suggested protocols. In the first approach, the carbon composite catalyst (CCC) having active sites for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is employed as a support for the synthesis of Pt/CCC catalyst. The structural and electrochemical properties of Pt/CCC catalyst are investigated using highresolution transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, while RDE and fuel cell testing are carried out to study the electrochemical properties. The synergistic effect of CCC and Pt is confirmed by the observed high activity towards ORR for the Pt/CCC catalyst. The second approach is the synthesis of Co-doped hybrid cathode catalysts (Co-doped Pt/CCC) by diffusing the Co metal present within the CCC support into the Pt nanoparticles during heat-treatment. The optimized Co-doped Pt/CCC catalyst performed better than the commercial catalysts and the catalyst prepared using the impregnation method in PEMFCs and showed high stability under 30,000 potential cycles between 0.6 and 1.0 V. To further increase the stability of the catalyst at high potential cycles (1.0-1.5 V), high temperature treatment is used to obtain graphitized carbon having optimum BET surface area. The novel catalyst synthesis procedure developed in this study was successfully applied for the synthesis of Co-doped Pt catalysts supported on the graphitized carbon which showed high activity and enhanced stability at high potentials.