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Adv Sci (Weinh). 2016 Jun 14;3(11):1600140. eCollection 2016 Nov.

High-Performance Direct Methanol Fuel Cells with Precious-Metal-Free Cathode.

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State Key Laboratory of Material Processing and Die & Mould Technology School of Materials Science and Engineering Huazhong University of Science and Technology Wuhan 430074 P. R. China.
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering University at Buffalo The State University of New York Buffalo NY 14260 USA.
School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Harbin Institute of Technology Harbin 150001 P.R. China.
Department of Energy Engineering and School of Energy and Chemical Engineering Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) Ulsan 689-798 Republic of Korea.


Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) hold great promise for applications ranging from portable power for electronics to transportation. However, apart from the high costs, current Pt-based cathodes in DMFCs suffer significantly from performance loss due to severe methanol crossover from anode to cathode. The migrated methanol in cathodes tends to contaminate Pt active sites through yielding a mixed potential region resulting from oxygen reduction reaction and methanol oxidation reaction. Therefore, highly methanol-tolerant cathodes must be developed before DMFC technologies become viable. The newly developed reduced graphene oxide (rGO)-based Fe-N-C cathode exhibits high methanol tolerance and exceeds the performance of current Pt cathodes, as evidenced by both rotating disk electrode and DMFC tests. While the morphology of 2D rGO is largely preserved, the resulting Fe-N-rGO catalyst provides a more unique porous structure. DMFC tests with various methanol concentrations are systematically studied using the best performing Fe-N-rGO catalyst. At feed concentrations greater than 2.0 m, the obtained DMFC performance from the Fe-N-rGO cathode is found to start exceeding that of a Pt/C cathode. This work will open a new avenue to use nonprecious metal cathode for advanced DMFC technologies with increased performance and at significantly reduced cost.


direct methanol fuel cells; electrocatalysis; graphene; nonprecious metal catalysts; oxygen reduction

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