Pt based mono/bi/tri-metallic nanocomposites on different carbon based supports (activated carbon (AC), carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and carbon nanofibers (CNFs)) were synthesised and Pt surface enrichment achieved. The overall theoretical metallic content (Pt + Au + Sn) was 20% (w/w) in all mono/bi/tri-metallic nanocomposites and was found to be uniformly distributed in the supporting matrix (80%). The surface morphology and composition of the synthesised materials was characterised using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), while cyclic voltammetry was employed in order to confirm their typical metallic electrochemical characteristics. Electrochemical measurements indicated that Pt2Au1Sn1 trimetallic catalysts demonstrated a significantly higher electrochemically active surface area relative to activated carbon supported PtAu based bimetallic counterparts. The results show that the CNT based trimetallic catalyst (Pt2Au1Sn1/CNT) showed greatest electroactive surface area (49.3 m2/g) and current density for methanol oxidation in acidic (490 mA mg−1 Pt) as well as basic (1700 mA mg−1 Pt) conditions. Results demonstrated that in comparison to Au/C and Sn/C (no/negligible response), the presence of a small amount of Pt in the Au and Sn based nanocomposites, significantly modified the catalytic properties. The activated carbon supported bimetallic (Pt1Au3/C) catalyst showed reasonably good response (260 mA mg−1 Pt) among all bimetallic nanomaterials examined. The current response achieved for Pt2Au1Sn1/CNT was 1.9 times (in acidic media) and 2.1 times (in basic media) that for synthesised Pt/C in terms of per mg Pt activity. Overall the methanol oxidation studies demonstrated that the presence of Au and Sn in Pt based catalysts strongly indicated their capacity to reduce the precious Pt content required for this application, demonstrating the role of Au in improving current/potential response and signifying the importance of supporting matrices.
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