Graphene Nanoplatelets Superior to Platinum for Fuel Cell Catalysts

An international team of researchers has developed a more affordable way to make fuel cells for vehicles - using chemically modified graphene nanoplatelets instead of costly metals like platinum as the electrocatalyst.

The graphene nanoplatelets (GnPs) are have halogens (chlorine, bromine and iodine) chemically bonded to the edge of each graphene layer. This forces the edges of the layers apart, increasing the surface area of the platelets.

In this study, published and free to access in Nature's Scientific Reports, the halogen-functionalized edges of the GnPs were shown to be good binding sites for oxygen, and very effective catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), a chemical process which is central to the operation of a fuel cell in which oxygen and hydrogen molecules break up and rearrange to form water.

Schematic showing the effect of halogens on GnPs. From left to right: untreated GnPs, chlorine (Cl), bromine (Br) and iodine (I).

The edge-halogenated graphene nanoplatelets, or XGnPs, as they have been dubbed, could be a great step forward for fuel cell technology, as the method used to produce them is relatively simple and cheap to perform. This is in contrast to more traditional fuel cell catalysts, which are based on expensive metals like platinum.

Simple, scalable process

The XGnPs are produced by ball-milling of graphite powder fast enough to break the bonds between the carbon atoms. The nanoscale flakes of graphite this creates, called graphene nanoplatelets, are treated with the halogen gases, which react with the exposed carbon atoms along the edge of the platelets.

Previous attempts to create a non-metallic electrocatalyst material have not taken off - they have tended to suffer from poor cycle stability over longer periods of operation, and issues with efficiency during production. The XGnPs, however, have shown performance which is better than these previous attempts, and even better in some ways than the catalysts which are commonly used today.

Best of all worlds

This new graphene-based material seems well placed to fix all of the issues with previous electrocatalyst materials which have been hampering the commercialization of fuel cells. Prof. Liming Dai from Case Western Reserve University comments:

"Our metal-free catalysts are made using an affordable and scalable process. They are also more stable than platinum catalysts and tolerate carbon monoxide poisoning and methanol crossover."

Once again, the entry of graphene into a sector of the materials market is shown to be potentially revolutionary. GnPs also have fewer technical hurdles to clear than CVD graphene to reach commercial production. This discovery could have huge implications for fuel cell technology, potentially bringing large-scale commercial applications in vehicles and local power generation forward by several years.


"Facile, scalable synthesis of edge-halogenated graphene nanoplatelets as efficient metal-free eletrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction" - Nature Scientific Reports, 2013. DOI: 10.1038/srep01810

"Metal-free catalyst outperforms platinum in fuel cell" - Case Western Reserve University

"Noble way to low-cost fuel cells, halogenated graphene may replace expensive platinum" - UNIST

Will Soutter

Written by

Will Soutter

Will has a B.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Durham, and a M.Sc. in Green Chemistry from the University of York. Naturally, Will is our resident Chemistry expert but, a love of science and the internet makes Will the all-rounder of the team. In his spare time Will likes to play the drums, cook and brew cider.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Soutter, Will. (2017, July 31). Graphene Nanoplatelets Superior to Platinum for Fuel Cell Catalysts. AZoNano. Retrieved on June 15, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Soutter, Will. "Graphene Nanoplatelets Superior to Platinum for Fuel Cell Catalysts". AZoNano. 15 June 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Soutter, Will. "Graphene Nanoplatelets Superior to Platinum for Fuel Cell Catalysts". AZoNano. (accessed June 15, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Soutter, Will. 2017. Graphene Nanoplatelets Superior to Platinum for Fuel Cell Catalysts. AZoNano, viewed 15 June 2024,

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this article?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.