Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Fall 10-28-2019


Mason, A. 2019. Investigation of Oxygen Reduction Reaction in Carbon-Based Electrocatalysts. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Andrew Mason 2019


In the modern era, some global challenges are energy storage conversion. To find sustainable solutions to this problem, researchers have turned to renewable energy resources. An example of promising energy generation devices is fuel cell. Fuel cells are electrochemical systems that convert the chemical energy of the fuel to electrochemical potential that can be used as direct current (dc) generators. Although these technologies are very attractive, they are known to be expensive due to high cost of catalysts and concerns regarding their energy densities. Fuel cells composed of two electrodes, namely cathode and anode and electrolyte separating the oxidizing agents and fuel. In most of the fuel cells, Oxidation Reduction Reaction (ORR) provides electrons at the anode that then travel to the cathode and produce usable electricity by oxidizing the fuel. In alkaline fuel cells, platinum-loaded carbon electrocatalysts have been historically used to drive ORR and produce efficient power outputs. However, the use of these electrocatalysts have been hindered by cost constraints, making these catalysts commercially inviable for widespread domestic and retail sale. Apart from the high cost, Pt-based electrodes suffer from susceptibility to time-dependent drift and CO deactivation, which slowly degrade electrocatalysts over time, making fuel cells less efficient. This is why alternative electrocatalysts are being sought after and why alternative electrocatalysts are at high demand for future energy applications.

The premise for this paper is to characterize and analyze the properties of carbon-based electrocatalysts as alternatives for currently available and more expensive electrocatalyst. Specifically, this paper analyzes the properties of various carbon nanotube (CNT) and graphene structures with different surface chemistry and internal structures. The results show that carbon-based materials have a promising future as ORR electrocatalysts; however, it is often argued that the design and development of efficient carbon-based electrodes are hindered by the incomplete understanding of the underlying mechanism for ORR on carbon.

Included in this paper is an experimental section describing how the experiments were set up and how the data were collected. This section will also include preliminary data on the electrocatalysts themselves. Next, there will be a Data and Results Section to provide more experimental data on the electrocatalysts. In this section, all the data will be analyzed thoroughly. Lastly, there will be a Conclusion Section where the data will be interpreted and results will be concluded. This is also where I will propose future paths for these preliminary experiments to progress down in hopes of developing cheaper alternative batteries.