To explore the idea, researchers at the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, China, used various alcohol solvents with different chain lengths, and consequently different viscosities, to synthesize a carbon supported palladium catalyst. The results showed that the size of palladium particles could be facilely controlled by simply tuning the impregnation method's solvent media. They also helped the team to better understand the role of viscosity in the aggregation of metal particles.

When n-butanol was used as the solvent, the researchers were able to obtain a Pd/C catalyst with an average size in the region of 3 nm and a narrow size distribution. The material was applied to a direct formic acid fuel cell, where it presented a large electrochemically active surface area and high catalytic activity for formic acid electro-oxidation. The preparation method is simple and could benefit the synthesis of mass-produced Pd/C catalysts and the other noble metal catalysts for fuel cell applications.

The group presented its work in Nanotechnology.