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IBN researchers develop new gold-copper-platinum core-shell electrocatalyst for fuel cells

An illustration of the new IBN nanocomposite material which is composed of gold-copper alloy atoms in the core and platinum atoms at the outer layer. Source: IBN. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore report the synthesis of core–shell AuCu@Pt nanoparticles exhibiting superior electrocatalytic activity and excellent stability towards the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells. A paper on their work appears in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science.

A general challenge in fuel cell development involves improving the durability and electrocatalytic activity of platinum-based electrocatalysts, while reducing the loading of the expensive metal. Professor Jackie Y. Ying and colleagues discovered that by replacing the central part of the catalyst with gold and copper alloy and leaving just the outer layer in platinum, the new hybrid material can provide 5 times higher activity and much greater stability than the commercial platinum catalyst. With further optimization, it would be possible to further increase the material’s catalytic properties, they said.

IBN’s new nanocomposite material can produce at least 0.571 amps of electric current per milligram of platinum, compared to 0.109 amps per milligram of platinum for commercial platinum catalysts. This is also the first time that a catalyst has been shown to enhance both the stability and activity for the fuel cell reaction with a significantly reduced platinum content.

In the IBN catalyst, the gold (Au) component in the gold-copper (AuC) alloy core is crucial toward stabilizing the platinum (Pt) shell during ORR. The team attributed the extraordinary electrocatalytic activity of the AuCu@Pt nanoparticles for ORR to the compressive strain effect exerted by the AuCu alloy core on the Pt shell, which is induced by the slightly smaller lattice spacing of the AuCu core. In contrast, a pure Au core with a larger lattice spacing than Pt would induce a tensile strain effect on the Pt shell, decreasing the electrocatalytic activity of Pt for ORR.

Replacing the core of the nanoparticle with the less expensive gold-copper alloy also cuts down the usage of platinum.

Professor Ying said, “A key research focus at IBN is to develop green energy technologies that can lead to greater efficiency and environmental sustainability. More active and less costly than conventional platinum catalysts, our new nanocomposite system has enabled us to significantly advance fuel cell development and make the technology more practical for industrial applications.”

This study illustrates that tuning the surface strain in Pt-based nanomaterials can be an effective way to manipulate the specific electrocatalytic activity. Moreover, the replacement of precious Pt core with the less expensive AuCu alloy can significantly reduce Pt loading and the associated catalyst cost, while achieving a superior electrocatalytic activity.

—Yang et al.


  • J. Yang, X. Chen, X. Yang and J. Y. Ying (2012) Stabilization and Compressive Strain Effect of AuCu Core on Pt Shell for Oxygen Reduction Reaction Energy and Environmental Science, doi: 10.1039/C2EE22172A



That's the best news in fuelcell recently and im sure that they can begin commercialisation soon. Actually they can beat gasoline and bev technology and grab the market. Im interrested to buy and million of car driver are interrested to buy. Start commercialisation right now and fuelcell will sell, gasoline price will crash to 1.25$/gallon, bev sales will shrink to zero, traffic on the roads will explode worldwide but with these cheap efficient fuelcell we can also build and commercialize personnal helicopters to avoid crowded roads.




If I'm going to be a helicopter driver in the future I'll need to practice on controlling cyclic and collective.

Nevertheless this development is good news. It might even solve the range issue of BEVs.


A PHEV with a small - lower cost - higher efficiency fuel cell as a genset would need a smaller battery pack or ultra caps and could be an alternative to pure extended range BEVs, specially for larger highway vehicles?

A few hundred hydrogen stations on major highways should not be a challenge.


This IS good news, the DOE wanted a 4x improvement and this is it.


Gold is not that cheap either..


Palladium belongs to the same family of elements as platinum. Its behaviour is not the same but very similar to that of platin. It's far cheaper than platinum.
Does anyone know, why palladium is not used in lieu of platinum?


Palladium is used in direct Formic acid fuel cells- of course formic acid fuel cells which seemed to have major buzz about two years ago ( they are similar to methanol fuel cells but have about 4x the power density)have gone silent.


most likely its because its not found in as large amounts as platinum. platinum is mined mainly as a side product of mining for something else.. cant remember what that other thing was.. tin maybe.


On the contrary! Palladium is much more abundant than platinum. Platinum is so painfully expensive because it's a scarce and limited element. My question was intended more in the direction of undesired molecular / chemical activity or low efficiency that would perhaps thwart its usage in FC applications.


Are you sure its abundant? Just because its cheaper doesnt mean they mine more of it per year.


"Hey, Tony. Before you go, palladium in the chest, painful way to die. Heh-heh-heh..."

Henry Gibson

High efficiency is not needed for a range extender in a series battery powered hybrid electric vehicle; so there is no need for an expensive hydrogen fuel cell in such a vehicle. The series hydraulic hybrid vehicle by Artemis demonstrated half the fuel consumption in city driving without reducing the engine size, and a reduction in engine size or the adoption of the INNAS NOAX free piston engine would give even higher efficiency with similar performance. Ian Wright says that automobiles are efficient enough, but heavy vehicles need to be hybrid, but he sells super high performance hybrid systems for the wealthy that need no efficient automobiles. A Bladen jet without any gold or platinum or even a Honda generator is enough power and efficiency for a battery plug in series hybrid. The jet would also eliminate the need for platinum metals in the converter. ..HG..

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