Hydrogen fuel cells with non-precious metal catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction

February 21st, 2022

R&D Focus Areas:
Electricity, Mobility

Lead Organisation:
University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Not applicable


Start date:
November 2020

Completion date:
November 2023

Key contacts:
Professor Chuan Zhao: chuan.zhao@unsw.edu.au
Dr Quentin Meyer quentin.meyer@unsw.edu.au

AUD$424,566 – Australian Research Council

Project total cost:
Not applicable

Project summary description:
The costs of hydrogen fuel cells electric vehicles ($60,000 USD for a Toyota Mirai) is one of their barriers for their wide-scale commercialisation. One of the reasons for their high-costs are their heavy reliance on platinum (fuel cell passenger vehicle using 30 to 60 g of platinum). As platinum is one of the rarest and most expensive metals on earth (costs nearing 30,000 USD/kg), its usage needs to be either reduced significantly, or replaced by other metals altogether to produce more affordable fuel cells

This project aims to reduce the reliance of hydrogen fuel cells on platinum catalysts, by synthesising new and low-cost catalysts, characterise them in hydrogen fuel cells to improve their performances, scale up their synthesis, and demonstrate their performances in real hydrogen fuel cell stacks.

Over the last two years, new and low-costs catalysts have been developed using inexpensive metals, which represents a significant milestone to this project’s success. Efforts to improve the performances of these catalysts in fuel cells, and scale-up their synthesis for real device development are actively on-going by Professor Zhao’s research team.

Related publications and key links:
Zhao Group page:


  1. Chen, X. Zeng, Q. Meyer, C. Zhao, Z. He, F. Wu, H. Tang, Y. Cheng, An outstanding NiFe/NF oxygen evolution reaction boosted by the hydroxyl oxides, Electrochimica Acta, 442, 141862, 2023.
  2. Xia, Y. Cheng, R. Wang, et al., Porous nanosheet composite with multi-type active centers as an efficient and stable oxygen electrocatalyst in alkaline and acid conditions, Sci. China Mater. 2022. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40843-022-2272-2 (2023)
  3. Müller-Hülstede, L.M. Uhlig, H.Schmies, D. Schonvogel, Q.Meyer, Y.Nie, C.Zhao, J.Vidakovic, P.Wagner, Towards the Reduction of Pt Loading in High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells – Effect of Fe−N−C in Pt-Alloy Cathodes, ChemSusChem, 16, e202202046, 2023.
  4. Meyer, S. Liu, K. Ching, Y.D. Wang, C. Zhao, Operando monitoring of the evolution of triple-phase boundaries in proton exchange membrane fuel cells, Journal of Power Sources 557, 232539, 2023.
  5. D., Wang, Q., Meyer, K. Tang, et al., Large-scale physically accurate modelling of real proton exchange membrane fuel cell with deep learning, Nature Communications., 14, 745, 2023.
  6. Meyer, S. Liu, Y. Li, C. Zhao, Operando Detection of Oxygen Reduction Reaction Kinetics of Fe-N-C Catalysts in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells, Journal of Power Sources, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpowsour.2022.231058
  7. Liu, Q. Meyer, Y. Li, T. Zhao, Z. Su, K. Ching, C. Zhao, Fe-N-C/Fe nanoparticle composite catalysts for oxygen reduction reaction in proton exchange membrane fuel cells, Chemical Communications, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1039/D1CC07042H
  8. Müller-Hülstede, T. Zierdt, H. Schmies, D. Schonvogel, Q. Meyer, C. Zhao, P. Wagner, M. Wark, Implementation of different Fe–N–C catalysts in high temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cells – Effect of catalyst and catalyst layer on performance, Journal of Power Sources 537, 231529, 2022.
  9. Osmieri, Q. Meyer, Recent advances in integrating platinum group metal-free catalysts in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Current Opinion in Electrochemistry, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coelec.2021.100847
  10. Meyer, C. Zhao, Air perturbation-induced low-frequency inductive electrochemical impedance arc in proton exchange membrane fuel cells, Journal of Power Sources 488, 229245, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpowsour.2020.229245

Higher degree studies supported:
Two PhDs and a postdoctoral research associate are supported by this project in the University of New South Wales (UNSW)


Reviewed: April 2023