Direct support mixture painting, using Pd(0) organo-metallic compounds – an easy and environmentally sound approach to combine decoration and electrode preparation for fuel cells†
An inventive, fast and straight-forward approach for the direct preparation of fuel cell electrodes has been developed and tested. Our approach avoids long catalyst preparation and post-synthesis treatment. It reduces the use of chemicals and thereby concomitantly lowers the environmental impact and improves cost efficiency. It combines decoration of the support by palladium nanoparticles with electrode preparation through a simple one-step ink-painting and annealing process. Composites have been investigated by high resolution transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction. Crystalline particles are well-attached and well-distributed on the support. Particles are of few nanometers in size and spherical for decorated Vulcan whereas they are larger and irregularly shaped for decorated helical carbon nanofibers (HCNFs). Electrodes with a metal loading of 0.8 mg cm−2 have been tested in a direct formic acid fuel cell. Both the Vulcan and the HCNF electrodes show a similar and high power output of up to 120 mW mg−1. They also show similar performances in deactivation experiments conducted at 200 mA cm−2 even when using only high purity grade formic acid. After deactivation the electrodes show no structural damage, making them superior to most commercial catalysts. The electrodes can be completely regenerated to initial activity by simple treatment with water. The easy regeneration process indicates that CO-adsorption on the fuel cell anode catalyst is not the main poisoning mechanism responsible for electrode degeneration.