Direct formic acid fuel cells (DFAFCs) allow highly efficient low temperature conversion of chemical energy into electricity and are expected to play a vital role in our future sustainable society. However, the massive precious metal usage in current membrane electrode assembly (MEA) technology greatly inhibits their actual applications. Here we demonstrate a new type of anode constructed by confining highly active nanoengineered catalysts into an ultra-thin catalyst layer with thickness around 100 nm. Specifically, an atomic layer of platinum is first deposited onto nanoporous gold (NPG) leaf to achieve high utilization of Pt and easy accessibility of both reactants and electrons to active sites. These NPG-Pt core/shell nanostructures are further decorated by a sub-monolayer of Bi to create highly active reaction sites for formic acid electro-oxidation. Thus obtained layer-structured NPG-Pt-Bi thin films allow a dramatic decrease in Pt usage down to 3 μg·cm−2, while maintaining very high electrode activity and power performance at sufficiently low overall precious metal loading. Moreover, these electrode materials show superior durability during half-year test in actual DFAFCs, with remarkable resistance to common impurities in formic acid, which together imply their great potential in applications in actual devices.
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- core/shell structures
- direct formic acid fuel cells
- low-Pt loading
- nanoporous gold