2020 Volume 18 Pages 81-93
Polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) are a clean, sustainable device to convert chemical energy to electricity and can provide power for automobiles, trains, and ships. In PEFCs, the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) occurs at the cathode and is catalyzed at electrocatalysts. The activity of ORR electrocatalysts is known to limit the overall performance of PEFCs because the ORR is more sluggish than the hydrogen oxidation reaction at the anode. In the state-of-the-art PEFC, platinum group metal (PGM)-based ORR electrocatalysts are used. Since PGMs are rare and expensive, highly active and durable non-PGM ORR electrocatalysts are required for widespread applications of PEFCs. In nature, metalloenzymes such as cytochrome c oxidase and multicopper oxidases efficiently catalyze the ORR and utilize multinuclear iron and/or copper complexes as active sites. The structure of these active sites and enzyme reaction mechanisms would give us design concepts of artificial non-PGM electrocatalysts for the ORR, possibly leading us to develop next-generation non-PGM electrocatalysts. Herein, recent research progress on understanding enzymatic ORR reaction mechanisms and developing non-PGM ORR electrocatalysts is reviewed from the viewpoint of bio-inspired approaches.