Development of Methanol-Reforming Catalysts for Fuel Cell Vehicles

University dissertation from Stockholm : Kemiteknik

Abstract: Vehicles powered by proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuelcells are approaching commercialisation. Being inherently cleanand efficient sources of power, fuel cells constitute asustainable alternative to internal combustion engines to meetfuture low-emission legislation. The PEM fuel cell may befuelled directly by hydrogen, but other alternatives appearmore attractive at present, due to problems related to theproduction, transportation and handling of hydrogen.Fuelling with an alcohol fuel, such as methanol, which isoxidised directly at the anode, offers certain advantages.However, the efficiency of the direct-methanol fuel cell (DMFC)is still significantly lower than that of the conventionalhydrogen-fuelled PEM fuel cell, due to some technical problemsremaining unsolved. Hence, indirect fuelling by a reformedliquid fuel may be the most feasible option in the early stagesof the introduction of fuel cell vehicles.The work presented in this thesis concerns the developmentof catalysts for production of hydrogen from methanol bypartial oxidation, steam reforming or a combination thereof.The work contributes to the understanding of how thepreparation route affects catalyst morphology and howphysicochemical properties determine catalytic behaviour andreaction pathways.The thesis is a summary of seven papers published inscientific periodicals. The first paper (Paper I) reviews thecurrent status of catalytic hydrogen generation from methanol,focusing on the fuel cell application. Paper II investigatesthe partial oxidation of methanol over Cu/ZnO catalystsprepared in microemulsion and by a conventionalco-precipitation technique. The activity for methanolconversion in the low-temperature regime is found to besignificantly higher over the former materials and the workcontinues by determining the nature of possible Cu-ZnOinteractions in the catalysts by studying their physicochemicalproperties more thoroughly (Paper III). In Paper IV, thepathways for methanol conversion via both partial oxidation andsteam reforming are elucidated.In Paper V, partial oxidation of methanol is studied overPd/ZnO catalysts prepared by microemulsion technique and againcompared to conventional materials. This investigationdemonstrates that although possessing high methanol conversionactivity, palladium-based catalysts are not suitable forreforming in fuel cell applications due to the considerableamounts of carbon monoxide formed.In Paper VI, methanol reforming is investigated over acommercial Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalyst. The mechanisms for carbonmonoxide formation and strategies for its suppression arediscussed, as well as reactor design aspects. The study alsoincludes some simple kinetic modelling. Finally, Paper VIIdescribes the optimisation of catalyst composition and processconditions to reach high hydrogen production efficiency at lowoperating temperatures and with minimum carbon monoxideformation.Keywords:PEM fuel cells, hydrogen, methanol, reforming,(partial) oxidation, reaction pathways, carbon monoxide,catalyst, microemulsion, Cu/ZnO, Pd/ZnO, copper, redoxproperties, oxidation state