For efficient conversion of oxygen and hydrogen into electrical energy in hydrogen fuel cells, the interaction of oxygen with the catalyst is important. The interfacial chemistry of the particles at the nanometre scale is crucial to truly understand the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), the limiting step of catalytic activity on platinum group (PGR) catalysts.
The hydrogen fuel cell offers a viable route to obtaining efficient energy conversion with little to no pollution to the environment. It is comprises an anode, cathode and a catalyst, connected by an electric current. The ORR occurs at the cathode of hydrogen fuel cells and involves the O2 molecule been reduced or split in order to ultimately produce electrons. The ORR does not proceed efficiently due to some of the oxygen intermediate species bonding strongly to the surface of PGR catalyst and this the limits performance of the fuel cell. PGR metals are also expensive and an alternative is to create an alloy with a cheaper metal such as cobalt. PtCo alloys are known to improve catalytic performance due to strain and electronic effects introduced by the cobalt. We aim to study the interaction of oxygen on these catalysts using a combination of electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) and modelling using density functional theory (DFT).
James completed his Bachelors and Masters at the University of Warwick in June 2016 before joining the STEM Group at Oxford University. He is currently a PhD working on PtCo alloys for hydrogen fuel cell catalysis as part of the Catalyst & Modelling set.
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