Chinese Journal of Catalysis

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Electrocatalysts Development for Hydrogen Oxidation Reaction in Alkaline Media: from Mechanism Understanding to Materials Design

Qiu Yanga, Xie Xiaohonga, Li Wenzhenb,c,*, Shao Yuyana,*   

  1. aPacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington 99352, USA;
    bDepartment of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA;
    cDOE's Ames Laboratory, Ames, IA, USA
  • Online:2021-04-25 Published:2021-04-25
  • Contact: *Yuyan Shao E-mail:;Wenzhen Li E-mail:

Abstract: Anion exchange membrane (AEM) fuel cells have gained great attention partially due to the advantage of using non-precious metal as catalysts. However, the reaction kinetics of hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) is two orders of magnitude slower in alkaline systems than in acid. To understand the slower kinetics of HOR in base, two major theories have been proposed, such as 1) pH dependent hydrogen binding energy as a major descriptor for HOR; and 2) bifunctional theory based on the contributions of both hydrogen and hydroxide adsorption for HOR in alkaline electrolyte. Here, we discuss the possible HOR mechanisms in alkaline electrolytes with the corresponding change in their Tafel behavior. Apart from the traditional Tafel-Volmer and Heyrovsky-Volmer HOR mechanisms, the recently proposed hydroxide adsorption step is also discussed to illustrate the difference in HOR mechanisms in acid and base. We further summarize the representative works of alkaline HOR catalyst design (e.g., precious metals, alloy, intermetallic materials, Ni-based alloys, carbides, nitrides, etc.), and briefly describe their fundamental HOR reaction mechanism to emphasize the difference in elementary reaction steps in alkaline medium. The strategy of strengthening interaction between H2 desorption and H2O recombination is finally proposed for future HOR catalyst design in alkaline environment.

Key words: Hydrogen oxidation reaction, Alkaline electrolyte, Fuel cell, Electrocatalyst, Electrocatalysis, Hydrogen and hydroxide binding energy.