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Increasing PEM Life Membrane degradation in fuel cells is cut in half thanks to a new electrode catalyst developed by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO; Kawasaki City, Japan; www.nedo.go.jp) in collaboration with Yamanashi University and Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K. K. (Tokyo, www.tanaka.co.jp). The Pt–Co alloy hydrogen electrode works by suppressing the generation of H2O2. Hydroxyl radicals (∙OH) are responsible for much of the degradation of the proton-exchange membranes (PEMs) used in fuel cells. The conventional approach has been to use radical scavengers incorporated into the PEM, but this decreases the performance. Now, the research team has taken a counter-intuitive strategy in which the production of H2O2 — the precursor of ∙OH radicals — is suppressed at the hydrogen anode, where oxygen diffusing from the cathode is reduced by adsorbed hydrogen atoms. This is accomplished via the use of a Pt-skin-covered PtCo alloy anode catalyst. A remarkably longer lifetime of a PEM with the PtCo/C anode, in comparison with that for a commercial Pt/C anode, has been demonstrated in an accelerated stress test of a single cell.
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