Unlike other fuel cell types, the direct methanol fuel cell does not require a separate hydrogen generation system and therefore has greater commercial potential, particularly for powering portable appliances. However, the limiting factor for the cost-effective performance of such systems
is the catalytic activity of the electrodes, in particular the anode. The single most active anode material is platinum, which is usually dispersed on a high surface area carbon support. It has been found that the addition of small amounts of metals such as lead, rhenium, ruthenium and tin
to the platinum produces a significant increase in activity. The best of these bimetallic systems is based on a mixture of platinum and ruthenium. However, further worthwhile improvements in anode activity could result from a more fundamental understanding of the methanol decomposition reaction.
In recognition of this, the Commission of the European Communities has initiated a research programme which involves collaboration between universities and industry in four member states. This article is based largely upon a paper given at the CEC‐Italian Fuel Cell Workshop in Taormina,
Sicily, in June 1987.
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