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Enhancing the Efficiency of a PEM Hydrogen Fuel Cell with Synthesized Metal-Nanoparticle/Graphene Composites Synergy

  • Rebecca Isseroff (a1) (a2), Benjamin Akhavan (a3), Cheng Pan (a1), Harry Shan He (a1), Jonathan Sokolov (a1) and Miriam Rafailovich (a1)...

Abstract

Obstructing commercialization of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC) is the soaring cost of platinum and other catalysts used to increase membrane efficiency. The goal of this investigation is to find a relatively inexpensive catalyst for coating the membrane and enhancing the efficiency of the PEMFC. Graphene oxide was reduced using NaBH4 in the presence of metal salts, primarily KAuCl4 and K2PtCl4, to synthesize metal-nanoparticle/reduced graphene oxide (RGO). FTIR indicated the successful synthesis of RGO, while Transmission Electron Microscopy displayed the presence of nanoparticles on RGO sheets. Nafion® membranes were coated with metal-nanoparticle/RGO and tested in an experimental PEMFC alongside bare Nafion®, Gold (Au) nanoparticles, and RGO. The metal-nanoparticle/RGO composites enhanced the PEMFC compared to bare Nafion®. Au-RGO, the best catalyst composite, increased the efficiency up to 150% better than nanoparticles or RGO alone while using only 1% of the concentration of Au nanoparticles. Theoretical power output of the Au-RGO synergy could increase fuel cell efficiency up to 18 times more than the Au-nanoparticles themselves by altering concentrations of Au nanoparticles in Au-RGO. The Au nanoparticles changed the structure and catalytic ability of graphene in the Au-RGO, offering a promising future for PEM fuel cell technology.

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