The slow, incomplete oxidation of methanol and ethanol on platinum-based anodes as well as the high price and limited reserves of Pt has hampered the practical application of direct alcohol fuel cells. We describe the electrocatalysts consisting of one Pt monolayer (one atom thick layer) placed on extended or nanoparticle surfaces having the activity and selectivity for the oxidation of alcohol molecules that can be controlled with platinum-support interaction. The suitably expanded Pt monolayer (i.e., Pt/Au(111)) exhibits a factor of 7 activity increase in catalyzing methanol electrooxidation relative to Pt(111). Sizable enhancement is also observed for ethanol electrooxidation. Furthermore, a correlation between substrate-induced lateral strain in a Pt monolayer and its activity/selectivity is established and rationalized by experimental and theoretical studies. The knowledge we gained with single-crystal model catalysts was successfully applied in designing real nanocatalysts. These findings for alcohols are likely to be applicable for the oxidation of other classes of organic molecules.
Keywords: electrocatalysis; ethanol electrooxidation; methanol electrooxidation; platinum monolayer.