Project Overview

NIRT: Nanostructured Bimetallic, Trimetallic and Core-Shell Fuel-Cell Catalysts with Controlled Size, Composition, and Morphology

# 0709113
Chuan-Jian Zhong (Principal Investigator)
Bahgat Sammakia (Co-Principal Investigator)
Susan Lu (Co-Principal Investigator)

This research program focuses on the topic area of "Active Nanostructures" through design, synthesis, modeling, characterization, and optimization of multimetallic nanoparticles towards fuel-cell catalysts. Multimetallic nanoparticles promise advanced opportunities for the development of active, robust and low-cost catalysts. A major problem is the lack of the ability in controlling size, composition, and morphology at the nanoscale. The goal of the proposed research is to establish the fundamental correlation between the nanostructural parameters (size, shape, composition and morphology) and the catalytic properties (activity and stability). Our approach is nano-engineering of multimetallic nanoparticles with a combination of activity enhancing, stability-optimizing, and cost-reducing components. Nanoparticles with binary (M1nM2100-n), ternary (M1nM2mM3100-n-m) alloys, and core@shell (M1@M2) will be synthesized, modeled, and characterized.

This approach is significant because the development of multimetallic catalysts towards practical fuel cell catalysts requires a balanced understanding of activity-enhancement, stability optimization and cost reduction, which has not been addressed by the existing approaches. The proposed research will accomplish four specific objectives:

  1. to synthesize, characterize and optimize multimetallic nanoparticles and catalysts with controllable size (1-10 nm), composition (e.g., M1nM2100-n, M1nM2mM3100-n-m, M1@M2, MOx@M, where M (1 or 2) = Pt, Co, Ni, V, Fe, Cu, Pd, W, Ag, Au, etc.), and morphology (e.g., alloy, core@shell, shape, etc.);
  2. to evaluate the catalytic activities of the multimetallic nanoparticle catalysts in fuel-cell reactions for understanding the relationships between the catalytic activity and the nanostructural parameters;
  3. to develop theoretical models for predicting and assessing the structural correlation of the multimetallic nanoparticles and catalysts; and
  4. to carry out optimization analysis of the catalyst activity-stability and fuel cell testing of selected catalysts to determine the durability and degradation mechanism.

Fundamental questions concerning the synergistic activity of the surface sites and the relative surface arrangement of different metals or metal oxides in the nanoparticles will be addressed. The multidisciplinary team integrates the capabilities of PI/Co-PIs in nano-engineering, theoretical modeling and performance testing, including Prof. Zhong of the Department of Chemistry focusing on nanoparticle synthesis and characterization, Prof. Lu of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering focusing on optimization and reliability evaluation, Prof. Sammakia of Mechanical Engineering focusing on advanced characterizations and outreaching activities at State University of New York, and Prof. Wang of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Southern Illinois University focusing on theoretical modeling of the nanoparticles.

Intellectual Merits: At the fundamental level there is an outstanding need for the design and fabrication of multifunctional catalysts that exhibit synergistic activity and stability. The proposed approaches and methods in synthesis, processing, computation and optimization are expected to provide experimental, theoretical, and engineering insights into the catalysis of the nanostructured catalysts with controllable size, composition, and morphological properties. The fuel cell technology will be favorably impacted by such insights. Importantly, the methods and insights will also provide a useful knowledge base for many researchers in understanding and designing nanostructured catalysts.

Broader Impacts: The proposed research program encompasses nanoscale design, chemical synthesis, computational modeling, optimization analysis, fuel cell technology, and diverse physical and chemical measurements. The scope of the research activities is so broad and deep that the implementation of such a nanotechnology research program is expected to open up new opportunities in expanding the interdisciplinary explorations of nanotechnology. Our on-campus and cross-campus learning activities integrates nanotechnology and fuel cells into chemistry and engineering course modules that will be engage students, including undergraduate and high school students, in an interdisciplinary learning environment to become competitive in the nanotechnology-demanding job market.

Source: NSF