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Reduction of global carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emission necessitates the use of energy conversion devices that generate electricity directly without involving the combustion of fossil fuels. The fuel cell meets this criterion by producing electricity through an oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and fuel (e.g. hydrogen or methanol) oxidation at the electrodes. However, the efficient functioning of a fuel cell requires the use of catalysts that are a) highly active, b) exposing a large surface area for the reactions and c) being chemically stable for long cycles of operation on the electrodes. The study shows that Pt-based nano-crystalline catalysts alloyed with 3d-transition metals such as Fe, Ni, Co can produce desired facets through manipulation of their noncrystalline shape and meet all three basic criteria. Furthermore, the size and shape of the nano-crystals can be accurately controlled by optimizing the precursors and tuning the synthesis conditions, thereby facilitating the growth of a wide variety of nanocatalysts with designed structures that may be well suited to improve the ORR performance that is the bottle-neck in the fuel cell development. These catalysts show great promise in not only achieving high ORR activity but also lowering the materials cost in the fuel cell technology, potentially enabling mass production of the new generation fuel cell catalysts with some earth-abundant metals.



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Improving the Performance of Fuel Cells using Pt-Based Nano-Crystalline Catalysts