Graphene catalysts for low-cost hydrogen fuel cells

  • Metal oxide coated graphene is shown to be an effective catalyst for next-generation hydrogen fuel cells
  • Graphene materials could replace high-cost platinum catalysts
  • Grant funding has been secured for further testing


First Graphene Limited is pleased to provide results from an ongoing collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on the use of metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® materials as catalysts in Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEM-FC).


PEM-FCs are used to power hydrogen fuelled vehicles, with early adoption underway in mass transport and fleet markets. Like battery powered electric vehicles, no carbon emissions are produced but the PEM-FC has the added advantage that range can be extended by increasing fuel capacity without the need to increase the power unit size.

Existing PEM-FCs have one disadvantage in that expensive platinum catalysts are required for the oxygen reduction reactions that must take place in the cathode of the fuel cell.

Positive Results Achieved to Date

The collaborative research between First Graphene and Drs Yagya Regmi and Laurie King of the Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre at MMU, has tested metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® materials as potential oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts.

Initial results confirm that metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® is an effective catalyst for the cathode ORRs. It has the potential to be used as a cheaper alternative to platinum in the next generation of fuel cells.

Dr Regmi and Dr King are recognised experts in the field of hydrogen fuel cells and recently presented to the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group.

Next Steps – Further Optimisation

Both parties will now undertake a four-month collaborative project, funded by the MMU’s Business Engagement Seed Fund. The fund supports academic engagement with industrial clients to address real-world business needs. In this case it will support the development of new products in hydrogen and fuel cell technology. The team will focus on further optimisation of the test devices and extended comparisons with current industrial catalysts.

The metal oxide coated PureGRAPH® catalysts were manufactured using intellectual property exclusively licensed to the Company from the University of Manchester, and provide additional opportunities including a route to supercapacitor materials.


Fig.1: Scanning Electron Microscope Image of manganese oxide structures on graphene platelets.
Fig.1: Scanning Electron Microscope Image of manganese oxide structures on graphene platelets.


Dr Yagya Regmi said: “These are very encouraging results. They demonstrate the potential for First Graphene’s PureGRAPH® materials to be used as catalysts in alkaline fuel cells. Subject to further optimisation, they could provide a lower cost alternative to platinum-based catalysts.”

Mike Bell – CEO First Graphene Ltd said: “This is  a great result that consolidates our position in the growing energy storage market. It showcases our capability as an innovative and technically capable company, willing to work with world-class research teams.”

Christopher Taylor – Manchester Metropolitan University – MFCIC ERDF Program Lead said: “This is a great outcome. The hydrogen economy has developed at a rapid pace during the programme, and we’re pleased that FGR have engaged with us so positively.”

Tim Newns, CEO Manchester Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency said: “This collaboration between First Graphene, an Australian investor and leader in the commercialisation of graphene applications, and the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Innovation Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University is a superb example of the attraction to international investors of Greater Manchester’s leading-edge science and innovation offer. It truly demonstrates the city-region’s unique ability to come together and unite world-class research and expertise to enable rapid transformation for carbon neutrality.”