Proton electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC) are being aggressively developed as clean energy conversion devices. Promising near-term market applications include materials handling (e.g., fork lifts), backup power, residential co-generation, fleet vehicles (e.g., buses, taxis), and portable electronics, but the more impactful application of fuel cells lies in the commercial automotive sector, which has a great potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
A significant technical barrier to full commercialization is the high amount of Pt electrocatalyst required per fuel cell, which must be reduced significantly to < 0.1 gPt/kW, in order for the system to be cost competitive with the internal combustion engine (~$30/kW) in the automotive sector. The objective of this proposed Network is to bring together researchers and partners with the common goal of reducing fuel cell costs primarily by reducing the Pt requirement in fuel cells, but it is sufficiently diverse to impact all PEFC commercial sectors in Canada. This program will encompass two research themes:
Theme-1: Electrocatalysts, in which ultra low Pt content catalysts and non-platinum group metal (PGM) catalysts will be investigated; and
Theme-2: Catalyst Layers (CLs) and Transport Phenomena, which will investigate specifically-adapted designs of CLs and membrane electrode assemblies that alleviate the demanding requirements of thermal, water, proton, and gas transport.
The network will foster innovation in the form of discovery of new catalysts and advanced support layer structures that stabilize ultra-low levels of Pt. Through a collaboration of experts in materials chemistry, materials science and engineering, surface electrochemistry, electrocatalysis, molecular and nanoscopic transport theory and measurement, the Network will facilitate partnership between university, governmental and industry research laboratories, and will train the next generation of highly qualified research scientists.