Effect of Organic Model Compound Contaminants on Platinum Catalysts
Research has shown through studies involving commercial membranes and model compounds that when perfluorinated sulfonic acid (PFSA) membranes are exposed to hydroxyl radicals during fuel cell operating conditions, severe chemical decomposition products can be generated . The main membrane degradation compounds of Nafion and 3M commercial membranes were identified by Zhou et al. . Along with losses in membrane conductivity and structural integrity, such degradation products may also adsorb onto the Pt based electrocatalyst, possibly leading to a loss in catalyst electrochemical surface area (ECA), ORR activity, or both. To date, little effort has been reported on the impact PFSA degradation compounds have on catalyst performance.
This work investigates adsorption characteristics and effects from several model compounds, representing PFSA membrane chemical degradation species, on ECA and ORR activity for platinum based electrocatalysts including polycrystalline Pt, high surface area carbon supported Pt, and extended surface Pt. Adsorption properties due to carboxylate and sulfonate functional groups, fluorocarbon chain length, and model compound concentration were investigated using a variety of electroanalytical techniques including cyclic and linear sweep voltammetry and electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance (EQCMB) will be reported.
A rotating disk electrode electrochemical setup utilizing 0.1 M perchloric acid electrolyte (diluted from 70% HClO4 double distilled veritas grade, GFS Chemical) was used to study the effects of the several model compounds on the ORR activity of polycrystalline Pt as well as commercially available carbon supported Pt electrocatalysts. After injecting the model compound into the electrochemical cell and determining the effects on ECA and ORR activity, the electrode was then analyzed in clean electrolyte in order to monitor the recoverability of the activity loss for the Pt catalyst. EQCMB was used to measure the change in mass of the electrode as a function of potential, after the organic compound was added to the perchloric acid electrolyte.
This work on the effect of membrane decomposition products on Pt ECA and ORR activity is part of a larger DOE-funded system contaminants project. To better understand the potential adverse effects that system contaminants may have on the fuel cell performance and durability and to lower the cost of balance of plant (BOP) components, the larger project studies families of BOP materials including structural materials, hoses, elastomers for seals and (sub)gaskets, and assembly aids (adhesives, lubricants). For more information, please see http://www.nrel.gov/hydrogen/contaminants.html.
The authors would like to acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Energy EERE Fuel Cell Technologies Office, under Contract No. AC36-08GO28308 with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and collaborations with colleagues at 3M and GM. Membrane degradation products for this study were provided by 3M.
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