Platinum and Platinum Alloy-Carbon Nanofiber Composites for Use as Electrodes in Direct Methanol Fuel Cells

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Title: Platinum and Platinum Alloy-Carbon Nanofiber Composites for Use as Electrodes in Direct Methanol Fuel Cells
Author: Lin, Zhan
Advisors: Xiangwu Zhang, Committee Chair
Wendy E. Krause, Committee Co-Chair
Saad A. Khan, Committee Member
Samuel M. Hudson, Committee Member
Abstract: In response to the energy needs of modern society and emerging ecological concerns, the pursuit of novel, low-cost, and environmentally friendly energy conversion and storage systems has raised significant interest. Among various energy conversion and storage systems, fuel cells have become a primary research focus since they convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy with high efficiency and low pollutant emissions. For example, direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), which supply the electrical energy by converting methanol to energy, are an ideal fuel cell system for applications in electric vehicles and electronic portable devices due to their relatively quick start-up, rapid response to catalyst loading, and low operating temperature. However, the wide commercial use of DMFCs in advanced hybrid electric vehicles and electronic portable devices is hampered by their high cost, poor durability, and relatively low energy and power densities. In order to address these problems, their research focuses on the development of highly active electrode catalysts coupled with a suitable electrode structure for the oxidation of methanol at the anode and the reduction of oxygen at the cathode to attain high efficiency of DMFCs, and subsequently lowering the cost. In this dissertation, the fabrication of novel platinum and platinum alloy nanoparticle-loaded carbon nanofibers (CNFs) for use as electrodes in DMFCs is demonstrated through electrospinning, carbonization, and deposition. The resulting CNF-based electrodes possess the properties of high electroactive surface area, good catalytic abilities towards the oxidation of methanol and the reduction of oxygen, and great long-time stability. As a result, DMFCs using these CNFs-supported platinum and platinum alloy nanoparticles as electrodes offer many advantages, such as improved electrocatalytic abilities, long-term stability, easy fabrication, low cost, and environmental benignity. Therefore, this new technology opens up new opportunities to develop high-performance electrode materials in the future for high-performance DMFCs, which are one of the promising power sources for consumer devices and electric vehicles, and play a critical role in solving the worldwide critical energy issue.
Date: 2010-04-20
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Fiber and Polymer Science

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