Challenge to the Next Generation Fuel Cells for Low-Carbon

Masahiro Watanabe
Masahiro Watanabe
Fuel cell Nanomaterials Center, University of Yamanashi, Japan
December 6, 2012, 11:10 ~ 11:50

Abstract :

The East Japan Disaster and the terrible Fukusima Nuclear-Power Plants trouble triggered by it have awakened us that “the retracting moves” are not allowed anymore to the development of “real low-carbon and green energy technologies”. Various types’ fuel cells are ideally clean and highly efficient electric-power-generation systems. Among them, polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) are currently attracting enormous interests for the various applications as power sources.

In the first part, I will explain what the PEFC is and how it does work and then introduce the state-of-the-art of the science and technology of the PEFCs. For the wide introductions, particularly in 2020th, there still remain many problems which must be overcome; all together with performance, durability and cost issues, or the establishment of technology and infrastructure such as compact storage technologies and fuelling stations for H2. Among them, development of highly active and durable cathode electrocatalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) as well as CO tolerant anode catalysts is one of the most important subjects for the PEFCs. It is essential to achieve the reduction of Pt amounts currently used to less than 1/10 without loss of the performances in the commercialized systems. There are a couple of approaches to the goal, i.e., increases (1) in the specific surface area by nano-sizing the catalyst particles, (2) in Pt specific activity by alloying with the second metals, or (3) in the effective use of them in membrane/electrode assemblies (MEAs). All of them haven’t been well understood until now, which have led to huge wastes of human powers, times and money to the R&D.

On the context, we have worked hard to study these issues from both standpoints of basic science and engineering science to connect them for the PEFC practical applications such as residential co-generation systems (EneFarm), fuel cell vehicles (FCV) or power sources for ubiquitous portable devices. I will introduce about our systematic R&D approaches through a couple of national projects in Japan which we University of Yamanashi have promoted. Some of the works by the use of various modern research tools and corporations with companies working on materials, analyses and systems to target wide applications of the results in practical market in near future will be presented in details at the “In-depth Workshop” on Dec. 7th at the DGIF2012.


Research Activities :

Fuel cells, Electrocatalysts, Membranes, Hydrogen production & purification


Honors and Awards :

  • 2012: Electrochimica Acta Gold Medal
  • 2009: The Electrochemical Society of Japan Award “distinguished service medal”
  • 2000: The Editor “Fuel” (from 2000 to the present)
  • 1992: The Electrochemical Society of Japan awarded