A novel CuFe-based catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction in alkaline media

Qinggang He, Xiaofang Yang, Xiaoming Ren, Bruce E. Koel, Nagappan Ramaswamy, Sanjeev Mukerjee, Robert Kostecki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The primary objective of this work is to develop alternative electrocatalysts to Pt-based materials for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline fuel cells. We synthesized a bicore CuFe/C composite electrocatalyst by impregnation of iron and copper phthalocyanine-based complexes into a carbon support, followed by pyrolysis at 800-900°C in an Ar atmosphere. This novel composite catalyst exhibits electrochemical performance for ORR in 0.1 M KOH similar to a commercial Pt/C (BASF Fuel Cell, 30%) catalyst at 6-fold lower CuFe loading. High resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HR-XPS) results indicate that coordination bonding between Fe and N atoms still remains and show that a mixed Cu(I)/Cu(II) valency exists in the CuFe/C catalyst after high temperature heat treatment. The Cu(I)/Cu(II) redox mediator adjacent to Fe atoms is crucial to provide electrons to the NxFe-O2 adduct and maximize the overall rate of the reduction reaction. The results of this study may offer a new approach to development of efficient catalysts for oxygen reduction to water in alkaline media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7404-7410
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Alkaline fuel cell
  • CuFe
  • Non-noble electrocatalyst
  • Oxygen reduction reaction


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