A fuel cell is an elegant concept. Rather than burning fuel directly in air, producing much harmful smoke and waste heat, the reaction is split in two.
The fuel is oxidized on the anode; the oxygen is reduced on the cathode; the electrons pass neatly through a wire and produce useful work. Efficient, clean, and compact. Nevertheless, cars powered by fuel cells – despite nearly 200 years of research – are not yet an everyday reality for most of us.
Our group targets fuel cell challenges related to electrocatalyst development, both for the anode side (alternative, post-hydrogen fuels) and the cathode side (the oxygen reduction reaction). Along this path, we are most excited by the concepts of:
- Multi-doping – the interaction of several active elements at a single catalytic site
- Flow engineering – improving the delivery of reactants to catalytic sites
- Designability – gaining fundamental understanding, and ultimately, total control, of complex and ‘messy’ solid materials.
- Sustainability – challenging ourselves by sticking to earth-abundant materials, such as carbons, carbides, and hydroxides of alkaline earth, lanthanoid, and transition metals.