PGM-free Cathode Catalysts for Fuel Cells

Gang Wu Lab

Schematic of overall approach to promote the visibility of PGM-free Catalysts, from design to illumination.

Overall approach to promote the visibility of PGM-free Catalysts.

The primary approach is to develop novel atomic metal (e.g., Fe, Mn, Co, and Ni) single site catalyst embedded into highly porous and robust carbon matrix via newly developed metal-organic framework and polymer hydrogel methods. In next three years, UB will receive funding around $1.2 million for three projects.


As a long-term goal, platinum metal group (PGM)-free catalysts are highly desirable for proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and electrolyzer with significantly reduced cost in a sustainable manner. To overcome current technical barriers including insufficient activity and stability, and high transport resistances in electrodes, U.S. DOE EERE Fuel Cell Technologies Office recently invested significant effort to promote the viability of PGM-free catalysts and ultimately meet the challenging performance targets for transportation and other applications. As one of leading research centers, Dr. Wu’s group at UB developed various catalyst approaches and participated into three new projects by collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Giner Inc, and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), respectively. 

Resulting Publications

  • Wu, G., Current Challenge and Perspective of PGM-Free Cathode Catalysts for PEM Fuel Cells. Frontiers in Energy 2017, doi:10.1007/s11708-017-0477-3.
  • Zhang, H.; Osgood, H.; Xie, X.; Shao, Y.; Wu, G., Engineering Nanostructures of PGM-Free Oxygen-Reduction Catalysts Using Metal-Organic Frameworks. Nano Energy, 31, 331-350, 2017.
  • Wang, X.; Zhang, H.; Lin, H.; Gupta, S.; Wang, C.; Tao, Z.; Fu, H.; Wang, T.; Zheng, J.; Wu, G.; Li, X. Directly converting Fe-doped metal–organic frameworks into highly active and stable Fe-N-C catalysts for oxygen reduction in acid. Nano Energy 2016, 25, 110-119.
  • Gao, W.; Havas, D.; Gupta, S.; Pan, Q.; He, N.; Zhang, H.; Wang, H.-L.; Wu, G. Is reduced graphene oxide favorable for nonprecious metal oxygen-reduction catalysts? Carbon 102, 346-356, 2016.
  • Liu, K.; Wu, G.; Wang, G., Role of Local Carbon Structure Surrounding FeN4 Sites in Boosting Catalytic Activity for Oxygen Reduction. J. Phys. Chem. C 2017, 121 (21), 11319–11324.
  • Tyminska, N.; Wu, G.; Dupuis, M., Water Oxidation on Oxygen-Deficient Barium Titanate: A First Principles Study. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 2017, 121 (15), 8378–8389.

Students on this Project

  • Hanguang Zhang (PhD)
  • Zhi Qiao (PhD)
  • Yanghua He (PhD)
  • Shuo Ding (MS)
  • Qing Lan (MS)
  • Jingyun Wang (undergraduate)
  • Jing Xue (undergraduate)
  • Vyomika Sangwan (undergraduate)