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The University of Southampton
Advanced Composite Materials Facility

High throughput discovery of anode catalysts for direct sodium borohydride fuel cells

XRD spectra of high throughput Ni Au alloy
XRD spectra of high throughput Ni Au alloy

Compared to the low temperature fuel cells, DBFC has high open circuit potential, high maximum theoretical conversion efficiency and high faradic efficiency.

The fuel can be easily transported and stored. The product of the borohydride oxidation (borate) can be recycled. In general, it is considered to be a promising power system that can work for small portable applications. However, there are some issues that require more studies. One of the main issues is that during the oxidation of the borohydride, hydrolysis reaction takes place giving products that oxidise at a more negative potential than the borohydride ion.

New high throughput electro-catalysts

The aim of this project is to develop new electro-catalysts materials using high throughput (HT) methods for the synthesis and screening of electro-catalysts. The idea is to modify Au by alloying it with other 3d metals such as Ni or Cu and change its properties to become as active as Pt but without the hydrolysis effects. Although Platinum is regarded as a good catalyst, it is influenced by the hydrolysis reaction. Gold, on the other hand, exhibits a very low activity towards the hydrolysis compared to other catalysts. For nickel and copper, the formation of a hydroxide layer hinders the direct oxidation of the BH4- reaction. Synthesis of Au-M thin films at different compositions using high throughput physical vapour deposition (HT-PVD) can provide a large range of compositions which can be characterised to find out the optimal composition in a much shorter time than using conventional methods. The Au-M thin film materials will be characterised and screened using high throughput methods such as XPS, EDX, and XRD along with the electrochemical screening methods to verify the active region with respect to the direct oxidation of the BH4-.

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