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The University of Southampton

Research project: Corrosion Resistant Catalyst Supports

Currently Active: 

Developing next generation materials for electrochemical energy devices.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Fuel cells and electrolysers are the two key parts of the hydrogen economy. Working together they allow electrical energy to be stored as hydrogen. For some applications this is more convenient than using batteries or can replace polluting combustion engines.

In both fuel cells and electrolysers reactions involving oxygen are slow and precious metals are used as catalysts to speed them up. To make each gram of catalyst work most efficiently the metal can be spread out as nanoparticles on a catalyst support, figure 1.

Figure 2
Figure 2

These supports must be cheap, electrically conductive, have a high surface area and be stable. Currently the best supports are made out of carbon. Unfortunately carbon slowly corrodes in the hot, acidic, oxidising environment causing fuel cells to gradually loose performance and stopping electrolysers using catalyst supports entirely. We want to replace this carbon with inorganic carbides, which are more resistant to corrosion. This should make fuel cells work longer and electrolysers cheaper to make.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Carbides are usually not electrically conductive but are extremely stable. We think that by doping normal carbides with extra elements they can be made conductive enough without loosing the stability we want. Simulations we have carried out support this hypothesis. In this three-year project we are making and testing these materials to see if our idea results in better-observed stability, better fundamental activity and better devices.

Related research groups

Engineering Materials
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