Toward platinum-free fuel cells for affordable zero-emission vehicles


Thursday, November 7, 2019 - 4:00pm


ENGR II 1519


Yushan Yan – University of Delaware


One of the grand challenges facing humanity today is the development of an alternative energy system that is safe, clean, and sustainable. A distributed renewable electrochemical energy and mobility system (DREEMS) can meet this challenge. At the foundation of this new energy system, we have chosen to study fuel cells for zero-emission vehicles and electrolyzers for clean hydrogen generation. For these devices, polymer electrolytes play a critical role in controlling their cost, performance, and durability, and thus their economic viability. In this presentation, I will focus on our recent work on hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells (HEMFCs). More specifically I will show the roadmap we have developed for this technology, the progress we have made in developing the most stable membranes and the most active nonprecious metal catalysts. I will also try to answer the fundamental question: why are hydrogen oxidation reactions are slower in base than in acid for precious metal catalysts?


Yushan Yan is the Henry B. du Pont Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. He previously served as the founding Associate Dean for Research and Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware, Department Chair at the University of California Riverside and Senior Staff Engineer/Project Leader at AlliedSignal. His recognitions include University Scholar Professor from the University of California Riverside, Presidential Chair from the University of California, Distinguished Engineering Professor and Henry B. du Pont Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Delaware, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Donald Breck Award from the International Zeolite Association, the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Energy Technology Division Research Award from the Electrochemical Society, Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, the Braskem Award for Excellence in Materials Science and Engineering from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Fellow of the Electrochemical Society. He was one of 37 awardees of the US Department of Energy’s ARPA-E OPEN 2009, one of 66 awardees of the ARPA-E OPEN 2012, and one of 40 ARPA-E OPEN 2018. He is an inventor on 25+ patents and participated in several startups (e.g., NanoH2O). He is currently the founder and CEO of a University of Delaware spinout ( His research has led to 250+ publications that are widely cited (19,000+ citations; h-index = 75, Web of Science; 24,000+ citations, h-index = 82, Google Scholar), and extensively covered by the media including New Scientist, Business Week, C&EN News, Materials Today, MRS360, Chemical Engineering Progress, China Press, Chinese Daily News, CNBC,, KABC, Radio Australia, and VOA. He studied Chemical Physics (BS) at the University of Science and Technology of China, Heterogeneous Catalysis at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Chemical Engineering (PhD) at the California Institute of Technology. He has been an advisor for 30+ PhD students and 30+ postdoctoral researchers, with 20+ of them holding faculty positions.

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