Highly durable fuel cell electrodes based on ionomers dispersed in glycerol†
A major, unprecedented improvement in the durability of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells is obtained by tuning the properties of the interface between the catalyst and the ionomer by choosing the appropriate dispersing medium. While a fuel cell cathode prepared from aqueous dispersion showed 90 mV loss at 0.8 A cm−2 after 30 000 potential cycles (0.6–1.0 V), a fuel cell cathode prepared from glycerol dispersion exhibited only 20 mV loss after 70 000 cycles. This minimum performance loss occurs even though there was an over 80% reduction of electrochemical surface area of the Pt catalyst. These findings indicate that a proper understanding and control of the catalyst–water–ionomer (three-phase) interfaces is even more important for maintaining fuel cell durability in typical electrodes than catalyst agglomeration, and this opens up a novel path for tailoring the functional properties of electrified interfaces.