Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Cho, Kyu Taek

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Mechanical Engineering


Alcohol as fuel; Electrodes; Carbon


Alcoholic fuel cells have been developed intensively over decades for portable applications, but the full application was limited due to the issues such as high system cost, low performance, and durability. The main focus of this research is to replace the expensive platinum catalyst with cheap carbon material to solve one of key challenging issues, the system cost. Alkaline system was utilized, while most of related research has been conducted in acidic condition, due to benefits of fast kinetics, low alcohol/water crossover rate, and low cost of anion exchange membrane which is order of magnitude cheaper than Nafion membrane in acid system. Cheap and commercially available carbon papers were selected as an electrode for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in the positive side, and systematic research has been conducted to enhance the reactivity of ORR on carbon material. Various methods such as thermal, chemical, and vapor deposition were applied to activate the carbon material by controlling its surface area, wettability and functional groups such as oxygen and nitrogen at its surface. It was found that thermal treatment of carbon was more efficient in enhancing the cell performance than alkaline treatment and nitrogen doping method, and by increasing the surface area of thermally treated carbon, the cell performance was enhanced further. However, the cell performance is still lower than that of the cell catalyzed by platinum, but the performance is expected to be improved further by optimizing cell structures and operating conditions which will be the future work.


Advisors: Kyu Taek Cho.||Committee members: Pradip Majumdar; Donald Zinger.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vii, 43 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type