American Chemical Society
am9b13945_si_002.mp4 (12.2 MB)

High Power Density Platinum Group Metal-free Cathodes for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells

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posted on 2020-01-03, 20:11 authored by Aman Uddin, Lisa Dunsmore, Hanguang Zhang, Leiming Hu, Gang Wu, Shawn Litster
Low cost and high-performing platinum group metal-free (PGM-free) cathodes have the potential to transform the economics of polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) commercialization. Significant advancements have been made recently in terms of PGM-free catalyst activity and stability. However, before PGM-free catalysts become viable in PEFCs, several technical challenges must be addressed including cathode’s fabrication, ionomer integration, and transport losses. Here, we present an integrated optimization of cathode performance that was achieved by simultaneously optimizing the catalyst morphology and electrode structure for high power density. The chemically doped metal–organic framework derived Fe–N–C catalyst we used allows precise tuning of the particle size over a wide range, enabling this unique study. Our results demonstrate the careful interplay between the catalyst primary particle size and the polymer electrolyte ionomer integration. The primary particles must be sufficiently large to permit uniform ionomer thin films throughout the surrounding pores, but not so large as to impact intraparticle transport to the active sites. The content of ionomer must be carefully balanced between sufficient loading for the complete catalyst coverage and adequate proton conductivity, while not being excessive and inducing large oxygen transport losses and liquid water flooding. With the optimal 100 nm size catalyst and ionomer loading, we achieved a high power density of 410 mW/cm2 at a rated voltage and a peak power density of 610 mW/cm2 in an automotive-relevant operating condition.