(Invited) Fuel Cell Electrocatalysis in Acid and Alkaline Media: The Role of the Electrode Potential in Active Site Generation
A wide variety of electrocatalytic processes taking place at either functionalized surfaces or “metal” surfaces, are all , in fact, surface redox mediated . This means that the electrode potential defines the steady state population of active sites and suggests that the role of the potential in active site generation must be incorporated in the pre-exponential factor of the overall rate expression. In fact, the potential driven active site generation serves to “ignite” the faradaic process. This explains why the E0 redoc system of M/Mox , or MOX+n/MOX+n+m surface couples , must be as close as possible to E0 cell process , to enable high conversion efficiency as well as higher rates at low overpotentials.
In acid systems, strong proximity of E0 redoc system to E0 cell process , is difficult to implement for the ORR , because the reduced form of the relevant redox mediator must also serve as stabilizer of the intermediate, OOHads, requiring significant oxygen affinity of the reduced form of the redox system ( e.g., Pt metal) The coinage metals are active ORR catalysts at high pH apparently because a different early step in the faradaic process results in full highlighting of the benefit of active site generation at the lowest possible overpotential.
Bifunctional metal catalysts have been recognized as key to high HOR activity in alkaline membrane fuel cells. The last part of this talk will analyze this observation in terms of the wide principle of potential generated active sites.