Fuel Cell Studies under Ultra High Mass Transport Conditions

Christopher Mark Zalitis, Anthony Kucernak, Engineering And Physical Sciences Research Council
In a polymer electrolyte fuel cell a catalyst layer is built typically of platinum nano-particles supported on a high surface area carbon support and resides between a solid-state electrolyte membrane and a highly porous gas diffusion layer. One performance test for a catalyst layer uses a rotating disk electrode (RDE), with a liquid electrolyte. The liquid electrolyte conditions are very different from solid-state, due to mobile anions. Also, reactions become mass transport limited quickly due
more » ... to the relatively low concentration and diffusion of reactant gas in the liquid; therefore, extending the results from the RDE to a catalyst in a fuel cell is less than ideal. A novel approach has been developed to study catalyst layers in realistic fuel cell conditions but carries the simplicity of the RDE. This used a three-electrode half-cell with a wall jet configuration, to blow humidified gas directly onto the back of the working electrode, allowing direct transport of the reactant gas to the electrode. The catalyst layer was pressed onto a polymer electrolyte, and a three-electrode electrochemical cell was completed using an iridium oxide reference electrode sandwiched within the polymer electrolyte between the working electrode and a coarse gold mesh counter electrode. In the presence of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen it also gave a stable potential (< 3 mV h-1 drift), although this potential changed with respect to the gases. An ultra-thin and ultra-low loading catalyst layer was optimised for studying the oxygen reduction reaction. This involved vacuum filtration of a catalyst ink onto a porous substrate, forming layers which were uniform and as thin as 1 μm, with a platinum loading as low as 5 μgPt cm-2. The catalyst was supported on a gold sputtered polycarbonate membrane with Teflon AF coated pores, to act as an ultra-thin gas diffusion layer and low resistance current collector. These ultra low loading catalyst layers supported on a porous substrate were first tested in contact with an aqueous electrolyte, [...]
doi:10.25560/17779 fatcat:vebnit7dlbagdlu6jrqezlzbt4