Catalysis Working Group

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The Catalysis Working Group (CWG) meets twice per year to exchange information, create synergies, and collaboratively develop both an understanding of and tools for studying electrocatalysis for polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) and other low- and intermediate-temperature fuel cell systems, including direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), alkaline fuel cells (AFCs), alkaline membrane fuel cells (AMFCs), and phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs). The CWG members include principal and co-principal investigators in electrocatalysis projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as well as supporting DOE personnel. More information on DOE electrocatalysis activities can be found in the Multi-Year Research, Development, and Demonstration Plan.


Electrocatalysts with reduced precious metal loading, increased activity and durability, and also lower cost (including non-precious metal catalysts) as key fuel cell stack components represent one of the main focus areas of research and development activities of DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program. In particular, DOE is seeking novel transformative research leading to the development of next generation low- or non-platinum group metal (non-PGM) oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts for both automotive and stationary PEFC systems, hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) and ORR catalysts for AMFCs, as well as anode catalysts and fuel-tolerant cathode catalysts for portable power fuel cells (DMFCs and potentially other direct-feed fuel cells operated on high energy-density organic fuels).

For PEFC systems for automotive transportation, DOE has targeted total platinum group metal (PGM) content for both electrodes of = 0.125 g/kW and total loading of = 0.125 mgPGM/cm2 (electrode area) by 2020. DOE has targeted volumetric activity of 300 A/cm3 at 800 mV (iR-free) for non-PGM catalysts by 2020. Challenges facing PEFC catalyst development include lowering the cost, mainly by reducing PGM loading or replacing PGM catalysts with non-PGM alternatives at the cathode, and improving the durability under realistic operating conditions of the fuel cell stack.

For portable power systems, the anode and cathode catalysts should aid in meeting 2020 fuel cell system targets, defined in terms of specific power and energy, power and energy density, cost, and durability in three power categories: < 2 W, 10–50 W, and 100–250 W. Challenges facing catalysts for portable power fuel cells include reducing cost, mainly by lowering catalyst loading and increasing efficiency, in particular by raising catalyst utilization, reducing fuel crossover and enhancing cathode catalyst selectivity for oxygen reduction.

While significant progress has been made in reducing fuel cell catalyst loadings and improving durability there is a need for further catalyst research and development in the following areas highlighted in the Multi-Year Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) Plan and 2010 DOE Fuel Cell Solicitation:

  • Maximize electron, heat, and mass transport by incorporating the catalyst into a porous nano-network structure.
  • Co-synthesize highly active, low-cost non-precious metal catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction by doping nitrogen-activated metal complexes into a novel nano-carbon support in a single-step process that is easily scalable and market relevant.
  • Improve stability of catalysts by enhancing metal/support interactions and improved carbon support durability.
  • Explore the potential of high magnetic field annealing to produce highly active surface structures in Pt-alloy ORR catalysts.
  • Introduce, model, and develop the materials and techniques for a new approach that focuses on an engineered ionomer topology within the catalyst layer.
  • Design and develop oxygen reduction reaction/oxygen evolution reaction (ORR/OER) bi-functional oxide catalysts.
  • Develop new classes of non-PGM electrocatalysts for HOR in alkaline media. The catalysts will be scaled up to 50 g batches. A new type of ionomer for alkaline exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFC) will be synthesized and full integration of non-PGM catalyst with ionomer into the membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) will be performed.
  • Develop unique non-PGM catalysts with immunity to phosphate anion poisoning, a typical occurrence on supported noble metal catalysts.
  • Develop non-PGM bifunctional oxygen catalyst.
  • Prepare and characterize a matrix of catalysts and MEAs for use in reversible AEMFC systems.

In addition to the understanding and development of new-generation catalysts, there is also a need for the development and demonstration of unified methods of testing of catalyst activity and durability (in collaboration with the Durability Working Group).

Through close cooperation and coordination of the activities of electrocatalysis projects funded by the DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office, the primary objective of the Catalysis Working Group is to address and help overcome the gaps in understanding of fuel cell electrocatalysis and to meet DOE catalyst performance and cost targets.

Technical Targets

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Fuel Cell Technical Team of the US DRIVE partnership have developed a set of targets and test protocols for fuel cell catalysts. These targets are contained in the Multi-Year RD&D Plan, Fuel Cells Section.


The Catalysis Working Group holds two meetings per year: one members-only meeting in the fall and an open meeting in conjunction with the DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting.

Past Meetings:


The following people can be contacted for more information about the Catalysis Working Group:

Dr. Nancy Garland
DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office
Fuel Cell Team
U.S. Department of Energy, EE-3F
1000 Independence Avenue
Washington, DC 20585-0121
Phone: 202-586-5673

Dr. Piotr Zelenay
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Materials Physics and Applications Division
MPA-11, MS D429
Los Alamos, NM 87545
Phone: 505-667-0197