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Issue 12, 2013
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Electrocatalytic performance of fuel cell reactions at low catalyst loading and high mass transport

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Abstract

An alternative approach to the rotating disk electrode (RDE) for characterising fuel cell electrocatalysts is presented. The approach combines high mass transport with a flat, uniform, and homogeneous catalyst deposition process, well suited for studying intrinsic catalyst properties at realistic operating conditions of a polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC). Uniform catalyst layers were produced with loadings as low as 0.16 μgPt cm−2 and thicknesses as low as 200 nm. Such ultra thin catalyst layers are considered advantageous to minimize internal resistances and mass transport limitations. Geometric current densities as high as 5.7 A cm−2Geo were experimentally achieved at a loading of 10.15 μgPt cm−2 for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) at room temperature, which is three orders of magnitude higher than current densities achievable with the RDE. Modelling of the associated diffusion field suggests that such high performance is enabled by fast lateral diffusion within the electrode. The electrodes operate over a wide potential range with insignificant mass transport losses, allowing the study of the ORR at high overpotentials. Electrodes produced a specific current density of 31 ± 9 mA cm−2Spec at a potential of 0.65 V vs. RHE for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and 600 ± 60 mA cm−2Spec for the peak potential of the HOR. The mass activity of a commercial 60 wt% Pt/C catalyst towards the ORR was found to exceed a range of literature PEFC mass activities across the entire potential range. The HOR also revealed fine structure in the limiting current range and an asymptotic current decay for potentials above 0.36 V. These characteristics are not visible with techniques limited by mass transport in aqueous media such as the RDE.

Graphical abstract: Electrocatalytic performance of fuel cell reactions at low catalyst loading and high mass transport

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Article information


Submitted
10 Dec 2012
Accepted
29 Jan 2013
First published
29 Jan 2013

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2013,15, 4329-4340
Article type
Paper

Electrocatalytic performance of fuel cell reactions at low catalyst loading and high mass transport

C. M. Zalitis, D. Kramer and A. R. Kucernak, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2013, 15, 4329
DOI: 10.1039/C3CP44431G

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