High Activity Bismuth-Containing Electrocatalysts for Dimethyl Ether Fuel Cells

Anastasios Angelopoulos
University of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Keywords: Dimethyl Ether, Fuel Cell, Bismuth, Catalyst

Dimethyl ether (DME) is a clean-burning alternative to diesel fuel that meets strict emissions standards in combustion engines. DME is derived from natural gas but can also be synthesized from biomass on-site and is thus a sustainable and highly distributed energy source. DME has properties similar to propane and can utilize established fueling infrastructure and handling procedures. In addition to its use in internal combustion engines, the convenience of DME generation and transport can be exploited to overcome the high-pressure requirements of hydrogen fuel in more efficient electrochemical fuel cells in military applications. Unfortunately, incomplete DME electro-oxidation to carbon monoxide at the fuel cell anode poisons state-of-the art precious metal Pt electrocatalysts while CO oxidation promoters such as Ru impede cleavage of the ether bond. Consequently, despite their significant safety and portability advantages, DME fuel cells have yet to be proven viable. In this report, we discuss the sustainable all-aqueous based synthesis of novel Pt electrocatalysts that incorporate the element Bi as a CO oxidation promoter without inhibiting ether bond cleavage. We show that the resultant DME electro-oxidation activity is more than twice that obtained with state-of-the art electrocatalysts.