SLAC Colloquium Series

SLAC Colloquium Series


Colloquium Detail

From Ostwald to Tesla: New Insights into the Catalysis of Fuel Cells

Date: 9/21/2009

Peter Strasser
University of Houston and Technical University Berlin

Following his "energetic imperative," Wilhelm Ostwald called upon the Science and Engineering community of his time to develop more efficient electrochemical galvanic cells rather than combustion heat engines for use in stationary and mobile energy conversion and power generation. With this demand, he was about 100 years ahead of his peers.

Since Ostwald's time, both electrochemical battery storage cells and electrochemical fuel cells with their distinct fields of application have seen recurring waves of attention. Materials research on either type of cell has yielded impressive new insights and components over past years. Recent highlights include high-energy Li-ion batteries for use in full-electric vehicles as well as low Pt Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) in FC hybrid cars. But both types of galvanic cells are still facing formidable technical challenges and hence require attention by fundamental science and engineering. Interfacial and surface science will thereby critically benefit both the battery and the fuel cells.

Ever since their early days, the 'condition sine qua non' of PEMFCs has been the availability of more active and stable electrocatalysts. In particular, the identification of improved oxygen reduction reaction electrocatalysts for use in PEMFC cathodes is currently enjoying top priority in fuel cell catalysis and air battery research.

In this presentation, Peter Strasser will briefly review the status of battery and fuel cell research and will then focus on his group's recent progress in the materials science and surface catalysis of fuel cell electrocatalysts, to a large extent obtained by use of synchrotron X-ray analytical techniques for the investigation of novel nanostructured catalyst materials. Strasser's group has been able to clarify the extraordinary catalytic performance characteristics of a new class of nanoparticle catalyst, and recently developed X-ray scattering techniques to monitor and understand complex fuel cell catalyst stability behavior in-situ.

Last update: October 03, 2013