Iron-based cathode catalyst with enhanced power density in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells

Nat Commun. 2011 Aug 2;2:416. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1427.


H(2)-air polymer-electrolyte-membrane fuel cells are electrochemical power generators with potential vehicle propulsion applications. To help reduce their cost and encourage widespread use, research has focused on replacing the expensive Pt-based electrocatalysts in polymer-electrolyte-membrane fuel cells with a lower-cost alternative. Fe-based cathode catalysts are promising contenders, but their power density has been low compared with Pt-based cathodes, largely due to poor mass-transport properties. Here we report an iron-acetate/phenanthroline/zeolitic-imidazolate-framework-derived electrocatalyst with increased volumetric activity and enhanced mass-transport properties. The zeolitic-imidazolate-framework serves as a microporous host for phenanthroline and ferrous acetate to form a catalyst precursor that is subsequently heat treated. A cathode made with the best electrocatalyst from this work, tested in H(2)-O(2,) has a power density of 0.75 W cm(-2) at 0.6 V, a meaningful voltage for polymer-electrolyte-membrane fuel cells operation, comparable with that of a commercial Pt-based cathode tested under identical conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bioelectric Energy Sources* / economics
  • Catalysis
  • Electrodes / economics
  • Electrolytes / chemistry*
  • Electrolytes / economics
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Polymers / chemistry*


  • Electrolytes
  • Polymers
  • Iron