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Physical Sciences and Engineering

Discovery Acceleration

Argonne’s work in catalysis and energy conversion seeks to connect fundamental and early-stage applied research and development in the areas of catalysis and fuel cells.
Argonne staff chemist Magali Ferrandon prepares catalyst samples for testing and evaluation using a robotic platform for high-throughput synthesize of new materials.

We couple traditional laboratory experimental techniques with high-throughput/combinatorial experimental techniques to accelerate the development of new materials.

In catalysis, our research focuses on identifying and understanding the fundamental reaction mechanisms and well as physical and chemical material properties that can allow us to design catalysts that can more efficiently activate carbon-hydrogen bonds present in small hydrocarbon molecules, thereby converting them to liquid fuels and chemicals.

In fuel cells, we conduct early stage applied research aimed at improving the performance and durability while reducing the cost of electrocatalysts for use in automotive polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems and developing better performing materials for on-board storage of hydrogen.

We employ both traditional synthetic techniques for synthesizing oxide-support metal and organometallic catalysts as well as novel techniques, such as atomic layer deposition. We have a wide range of standard laboratory techniques available to us for characterizing catalysts, as well as extensive expertise and unique capabilities for applying X-ray spectroscopy techniques for characterizing catalysts -- especially under reaction conditions that utilize the hard X-rays provided by Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source. We conduct reaction studies aimed at defining reaction mechanisms as well as evaluating catalyst performance as a function of reaction conditions. Many of our performance evaluation studies are conducted using high-throughput parallel reactor systems that allows us to evaluate multiple catalysts, in some instances up to 48 catalysts, simultaneously.

In the area of electrocatalysis, we conduct research aimed understanding the physiochemical properties and fuel cell operating conditions that influence the performance and durability of commercial state-of-the-art electrocatalysts. One of our key research tools is the application of in situ X-ray spectroscopy and scattering techniques for characterizing electrocatalysts under operating conditions. We conduct this research as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO)-sponsored FC-PAD consortium.

We are also working to reduce the cost of electrocatalysts by developing next-generation precious group metal-free (PGM-free) catalysts as potential replacement for the platinum-based catalysts currently employed in automotive PEM fuel cell systems. We synthesize, characterize, and evaluate the performance of selected first-row transition metal catalysts with the goal of developing catalysts that meet or exceed the FCTO 2020 Performance Targets.

We, along with Los Alamos National Laboratory, are the co-leaders of ElectroCat, a FCTO-sponsored Energy Materials Network consortium, which targets accelerating the development of PGM-free electrocatalyst by employing an approach in which potential catalysts are synthesized and analyzed rapidly and comprehensively using high-throughput, combinatorial methods guided by high-throughput computational work.

In the area of hydrogen storage materials, we synthesize, characterize, and evaluate the performance of novel polymer-based materials for storing hydrogen for on-board automotive fuel cell systems designed to meet or exceed the FCTO 2020 Targets for performance, durability, and cost.


Chemical Sciences and Engineering General Inquiries


Accelerating the Deployment of Fuel Cell Systems

The ElectroCat (Electrocatalysis) Consortium is aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and other fuel cell energy conversion devices


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