Surface Composition of a Highly Active Pt3Y Alloy Catalyst for Application in Low Temperature Fuel Cells
Journal article, 2020

Currently, platinum is the most widely used catalyst for low temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC). However, the kinetics at the cathode are slow, and the price of platinum is high. To improve oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) kinetics at the cathode, platinum can be alloyed with rare earth elements, such as yttrium. We report that Pt3Y has the potential to be over 2 times more active for the ORR compared with Pt inside a real fuel cell. We present detailed photoemission analysis into the nature of the sputtered catalyst surface, using synchrotron radiation photoelectron spectroscopy (SRPES) to examine if surface adsorbates or impurities are present and can be removed. Pretreatment removes most of the yttrium oxide in the surface leaving behind a Pt overlayer which is only a few monolayers thick. Evidence of a substochiometric oxide peak in the Y 3d core level is presented, this oxide extends into the surface even after Ar+ sputter cleaning in-situ. This information will aid the development of new highly active nanocatalysts for employment in real fuel cell electrodes.

Oxygen Reduction Reaction

Thin Films

Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells


Rare Earths


Photoelectron Spectroscopy



Rosemary Brown

Chalmers, Physics, Chemical Physics

Mykhailo Vorokhta

Charles University

Tomáš Skála

Charles University

Ivan Khalakhan

Charles University

Niklas Lindahl

Chalmers, Physics

Björn Eriksson

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

C. Lagergren

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Iva Matolínová

Charles University

Vladimír Matolín

Charles University

Björn Wickman

Chalmers, Physics, Chemical Physics

Fuel Cells

1615-6846 (ISSN) 1615-6854 (eISSN)

Vol. 20 4 413-419

Durable polymer membrane fuel cells for vehicles - Lifetime studies on components, cells and stacks

Swedish Energy Agency (37806-3), 2017-10-01 -- 2020-12-31.

New fuel cell catalyst materials with nanostructured model electrodes

Swedish Research Council (VR) (2018-03927), 2019-01-01 -- 2022-12-31.

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Materials Chemistry

Other Chemical Engineering

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4/5/2022 1