Tezpur University

GUWAHATI: Scholars from the Department of Chemical Sciences of Tezpur University have engineered a new and cost-effective electrocatalyst for methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) that has the potential to compete with platinum-based catalysts.

Salma A Khanam, a research scholar of the Department of Chemical Sciences, under the supervision of Dr Kusum K. Bania, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Sciences, has published her findings in one of the most reputed scientific journals, ACS Applied Energy Materials (DOI: 10.1021/acsaem.2c02286).

Khanam has synthesised a non noble metal-based electrocatalyst consisting of nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co) metals that can be used for effective electrochemical oxidation of methanol-based fuel cells at a considerably lower cost.

Alcohol fuel cells or “direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs)” are now being engineered globally to mitigate the problems associated with non-renewable fossil fuels. To achieve a zero carbon footprint, green methanol is used as a fuel in DMFCs and is considered a green energy source. To achieve green methanol an effective methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) is required which can be achieved through electrochemical oxidation of metal-based electrocatalysts.

So far, the well-known catalysts for MOR are designed using platinum group metals, such as platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd). Although platinum-based catalysts can quickly accelerate the MOR, their rapidly increasing cost and high susceptibility to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning render them obsolete. This, in turn, has compelled researchers across the world to think of alternative low-cost metal electrocatalysts that can compete with Pt/Pd-based electrocatalysts.

The electrocatalyst engineered by Ms. Khanam, consisting of nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co) metals, costs much lower and has low toxicity levels contrary to its platinum-based counterparts. The efficiency of the Ni and Co electrocatalyst is also comparable to the platinum-based catalysts.

Khanam said that the tubular shape nickel hydroxide [Ni(OH)2] decorated within zeolitic spinel cobalt-oxide (Co3O4) through the zeolitic imidazolate framework (ZIF) template approach can provide an economically viable process in the field of green energy techniques and DMFCs.

Dr Bania, who was recently awarded the coveted Dr J N Baruah Science Award 2022 in ‘Chemical Sciences’ at the CSIR-NEIST, Jorhat, said that currently, they are working on costeffective transition metal-based catalysts for MOR that can exhibit longer durability, high current density and shows low CO poisoning in comparison to the Pt or Pd-based electrocatalysts.

They are currently focusing on shaping Ni(OH)2 which has a high potential for alcohol fuel cells. Former to this report, one of the co-authors, Nazimul Hoque, a research scholar from the Department of Chemical Sciences, also working under the supervision of Dr Bania reported for Rhodium Rh(0) doped Ni(OH)2 for alcohol fuel cells which were also published in ACS Applied Energy Materials 2022, 5, 5, 6118-6128.

The project was carried out in collaboration with Seonghwan Lee and Young-Bin Park, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Republic of Korea.

The team began working on the project after the Covid-19 pandemic and used the facilities available at both institutes to perform the experiments. As the market price of both Pt and Pd are abruptly increasing, the team believes that this kind of non-noble metal catalyst can provide new input for scientific research based on the MOR.

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