Editors’ choice⇔uncovering the role of alkaline pretreatment for hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells

Lin Shi, Brian P. Setzler, Keda Hu, Catherine M. Weiss, Stephanie Matz, Yanrong Xue, Zhiyuan Xu, Zhongbin Zhuang, Shimshon Gottesfeld, Yushan Yan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Alkaline pretreatment is perceived as an essential step for high-performance hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells (HEMFCs), but its exact function is not fully understood. Here we show that alkaline pretreatment is only necessary when carboxylates are generated from platinum- or palladium-catalyzed oxidation of primary alcohol solvents during membrane electrode assembly (MEA) fabrication. When alkaline pretreatment is needed, bicarbonates are a better choice than the most commonly used hydroxide bases. We further demonstrate that MEAs with Pt/Pd-free catalysts, which can be used in HEMFCs, exhibit a better performance without the alkaline pretreatment: a voltage of 0.64 V at 1.0 A cm−2 and a peak power density of 0.69 W cm−2 in H2/O2. The optimization or elimination of the alkaline pretreatment will simplify the fabrication process for fuel cells and thus reduces their manufacturing costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144506
JournalJournal of The Electrochemical Society
Issue number14
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published on behalf of The Electrochemical Society by IOP Publishing Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Electrochemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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