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Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2019 Jan 21;58(4):1046-1051. doi: 10.1002/anie.201811099. Epub 2018 Nov 27.

Nitrogen-doped Carbon-CoOx Nanohybrids: A Precious Metal Free Cathode that Exceeds 1.0 W cm-2 Peak Power and 100 h Life in Anion-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells.

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Department of Chemical Engineering, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA.
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.
Department of Chemistry, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK.


Efficient and durable nonprecious metal electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction (ORR) are highly desirable for several electrochemical devices, including anion exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFCs). Here, a 2D planar electrocatalyst with CoOx embedded in nitrogen-doped graphitic carbon (N-C-CoOx ) was created through the direct pyrolysis of a metal-organic complex with a NaCl template. The N-C-CoOx catalyst showed high ORR activity, indicated by excellent half-wave (0.84 V vs. RHE) and onset (1.01 V vs. RHE) potentials. This high intrinsic activity was also observed in operating AEMFCs where the kinetic current was 100 mA cm-2 at 0.85 V. When paired with a radiation-grafted ETFE powder ionomer, the N-C-CoOx AEMFC cathode was able to achieve extremely high peak power density (1.05 W cm-2 ) and mass transport limited current (3 A cm-2 ) for a precious metal free electrode. The N-C-CoOx cathode also showed good stability over 100 hours of operation with a voltage decay of only 15 % at 600 mA cm-2 under H2 /air (CO2 -free) reacting gas feeds. The N-C-CoOx cathode catalyst was also paired with a very low loading PtRu/C anode catalyst, to create AEMFCs with a total PGM loading of only 0.10 mgPt-Ru  cm-2 capable of achieving 7.4 W mg-1 PGM as well as supporting a current of 0.7 A cm-2 at 0.6 V with H2 /air (CO2 free)-creating a cell that was able to meet the 2019 U.S. Department of Energy initial performance target of 0.6 V at 0.6 A cm-2 under H2 /air with a PGM loading <0.125 mg cm-2 with AEMFCs for the first time.


anion-exchange membrane fuel cell; cobalt oxide; electrocatalysis; oxygen reduction reaction

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