Nonprecious anodic catalysts for low-molecular-hydrocarbon fuel cells: Theoretical consideration and current progress

Mohammad Ali Abdelkareem, Enas Taha Sayed, Hend Omar Mohamed, M. Obaid, hegazy hussien, Kyu Jung Chae

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy directly into electrical energy with high efficiency. The high cost of platinum catalysts and sluggish reaction kinetics are the main challenges in the development of low-temperature fuel cells. Although significant efforts have been made to prepare effective non-precious-metal-based oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts, suitable anodic catalysts are still far from realization. The reported onset potential of a nonprecious anodic catalyst toward low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons, such as methanol, ethanol, and urea, in alkaline media is approximately 0.35 V (vs. Ag/AgCl), which is far from the theoretical potentials of −0.61, −0.54, and −0.55 V (vs. Ag/AgCl), respectively. Therefore, some researchers concluded that nonprecious anodic catalysts are not practical, taking into account the ORR potential of 0.2 V (vs. Ag/AgCl) in alkaline media. Recently, however, several reports demonstrated an open-circuit voltage (OCV) of more than 0.8 V using non-precious-metal-based anodic catalysts, which contradicts expectations. Therefore, to answer these conflicting claims, this review intensively discusses the possibility of using nonprecious metals, for example Ni-based catalysts, for actual electricity generation in direct (methanol, ethanol, and urea) fuel cells, and the different methods applied to achieve the highest values of OCV. Also, the progress done in the preparation of nonprecious anodic catalysts is reviewed. Finally, conclusions and recommendations to prepare durable and active fuel cells using non-precious-metal-based anodic catalysts are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100805
JournalProgress in Energy and Combustion Science
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Actual fuel cell operation
  • Metal–organic frameworks
  • Ni-based catalyst
  • Ni-free nonprecious catalyst
  • Nonprecious catalyst
  • Zeolite


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