Designing fuel cell catalyst support for superior catalytic activity and low mass-transport resistance

Nat Commun. 2022 Oct 18;13(1):6157. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-33892-8.

ABSTRACT

The development of low-Platinum content polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) has been hindered by inexplicable reduction of oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity and unexpected O2 mass transport resistance when catalysts have been interfaced with ionomer in a cathode catalyst layer. In this study, we introduce a bottom-up designed spherical carbon support with intrinsic Nitrogen-doping that permits uniform dispersion of Pt catalyst, which reproducibly exhibits high ORR mass activity of 638 ± 68 mA mgPt-1 at 0.9 V and 100% relative humidity (RH) in a membrane electrode assembly. The uniformly distributed Nitrogen-functional surface groups on the carbon support surface promote high ionomer coverage directly evidenced by high-resolution electron microscopy and nearly humidity-independent double layer capacitance. The hydrophilic nature of the carbon surface appears to ensure high activity and performance for operation over a broad range of RH. The paradigm challenging large carbon support (~135 nm) combined with favourable ionomer film structure, hypothesized recently to arise from the interactions of an ionic moiety of the ionomer and Nitrogen-functional group of the catalyst support, results in an unprecedented low local oxygen transport resistance (5.0 s cm-1) for ultra-low Pt loading (34 ± 2 μgPt cm-2) catalyst layer.

PMID:36257992 | PMC:PMC9579166 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-022-33892-8

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