This research program will provide knowledge and advanced materials that will enable efficient electrochemical energy production from biofuels such as ethanol, glycerol and fuels produced by the pyrolysis of waste biomass. Currently, fuel cells operated with these fuels are too inefficient for significant commercial development, due primarily to the low activities of the anode catalysts that are available, and the production of partial oxidation products (byproducts). Advances in the development of fuel cells powered directly by biofuels require new electrocatalytic materials that provide high power and high efficiencies. These will be designed and synthesized by combining different methods from the literature, and new approaches, to produce innovative multifunctional materials. Thus, a variety of metal oxides will be used to support platinum-based catalytic nanoparticles, and control their activities for the pathways leading to complete and partial oxidation of the fuel. In addition, the structures and compositions of the metal nanoparticles will be varied to optimize power and efficiency. Improved and new experimental methods will be used to relate the wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated from fundamental studies, in liquid electrolytes under ambient conditions, to the higher temperature and pressure, flow conditions in a fuel cell with a polymer electrolyte. In this way, it will become possible to rapidly transfer discoveries from this research to end-users. This will facilitate the development of ethanol fuel cells that are competitive with technologies based on fossil fuels, and enable the use of more complex biofuels. The primary long-term objective is to increase the efficiencies of direct ethanol fuel cells to 50%, which will make them one of the best alternatives to internal combustion engines as low carbon power sources for vehicles. The results will address Canada's research priority in new materials for clean energy and energy efficiency, be important to the energy industry in Canada, and provide important environmental and financial benefits, while training highly qualified personnel to exploit these opportunities.
St. John's, NL