Nanostructured Carbon As Electrocatalyst Supports for Solid Acid Fuel Cells

Wednesday, October 14, 2015: 17:00
Borein B (Hyatt Regency)
R. A. Elgammal (University of Tennessee-Knoxville), G. M. Veith, B. L. Armstrong (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), W. D. Tennyson, O. Dyck, I. N. Ivanov (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), G. Duscher, T. A. Zawodzinski (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN), and A. B. Papandrew (University of Tennessee)
Hydrogen fuel cells utilizing CsH2PO4(CDP) as a solid proton conductor have tremendous promise as inexpensive devices for distributed generation. These systems known as solid acid fuel cells (SAFCs) demonstrate good activity for hydrogen oxidation and oxygen reduction, but require rather high platinum loadings. As part of an effort to decrease platinum content and increase platinum utilization we have developed a series of methodologies that use nanostructured carbons as a structure-directing electrode template. 

The current state-of-the-art SAFC utilizes thin films of platinum nanoparticles on a porous framework of CDP electrolyte.1An enhancement in the platinum utilization, electrode surface area, and electrical interconnectivity may be best achieved by using carbon supports for the electrocatalyst and homogenizing framework with CDP. This approach should increase the number of catalytically active platinum sites for a given loading and may also allow for inclusion of nano-sized CDP particles, which will reduce the electrode overpotential. This reduction is due in part to an increase in the number of electrolyte-catalyst-gas triple-phase boundary points and should reduce the platinum loading in the electrocatalyst.

We have investigated a variety of nanostructured carbon architectures including nanotubes and single-walled nanohorns2as well as oxidized and surface functionalized derivatives of the above. The type of carbon support and its surface properties were shown to impart a pronounced effect on the fuel cell performance.  We also propose a series of strategies to reduce the CDP particle size and increase surface area, thereby improving fuel cell performance and will discuss methods by which nanocomposite electrodes were created by infiltration of CDP into the pores or the interior of the carbons.

We will present a detailed structure-activity relationship using A.C. impedance spectroscopy, XRD, SEM, TEM, Raman microscopy, BET surface area, and measurements of proton conductivity. We also discuss how dispersion affects the homogeneity and percolation of the catalyst-CDP composites. Finally, we will discuss how functionalization of the nanostructured carbon materials affects the cell performance.

Acknowledgement.  This work is supported by ARPA-E under Cooperative Agreement Number DE-AR0000499. A portion of this work (TEM and Raman microscopy) was conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Science and through a cooperative agreement from the Department of Energy Office of Science User Faciltiy. 


(1)    Papandrew, A. B.; Chisholm, C. R. I.; Elgammal, R. A.; Özer, M. M.; Zecevic, S. K. Chem. Mater. 2011, 23, 1659–1667.

(2)    Geohegan, D. B.; Puretzky, A. A.; Rouleau, C.; Jackson, J.; Eres, G.; Liu, Z.; Styers-Barnett, D.; Hu, H.; Zhao, B.; Ivanov, I. In Laser-Surface Interactions for New Materials Production:  Tailoring Structure and Properties; Castillejo, M.; Ossi, P.; Zhigilei, L., Eds.; Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2010; Vol. 130, pp. 1–17. 

Figure 1. SEM micrograph illustrating platinized carbon nanotube / CDP composite.