We have developed a novel approach to investigate the characteristics of catalyst ink by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) combined with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy . Although traditional NMR studies of ionomers have been reported [5,6], the detailed discussion regarding the spatial inhomogeneity of particles in catalyst ink and their dynamics during the drying process has been lacking. MRI enables us to visualize the spatial variations in the sample characteristics which cannot be accessed through other spectroscopy techniques . In this study, we applied MRI and 1H/19F NMR to the catalyst ink for the decal process for gaining an insight on the dispersion state of catalyst and ionomer.
Using the mixture of water and NPA as a dispersant, we prepared catalyst ink samples. We used platinum catalyst supported on carbon black (Pt/C) and Nafion dispersion D2020 (Chemours). Pre-mixing of catalyst ink was performed using ultrasonicaton to break large Pt/C agglomerates into smaller units. We then used a thin-film spin system high-speed mixer Filmix (Primix), which is designed for the production of slurries of nanometer-sized particles, in the main mixing process. Because Nafion works as a dispersant of Pt/C particles, the dispersion state of Nafion has an impact on the dispersibility of the Pt/C particles and eventually on the stability of catalyst ink. We conducted MRI/NMR measurements for the catalyst ink samples at each stage of preparation process to investigate changes in the dispersion state of Pt/C particles and Nafion.
We found a fully-mixed sample exhibited a MRI image with submillimeter fine contrast because air bubbles were mixed in the sample during the main mixing process. It was difficult to remove air bubbles from the sample only by leaving it at rest for several hours. This observation was supported by the rheology measurement of catalyst ink. Hence we needed to use a magnetic stirrer to effectively perform the degassing of catalyst ink after the main mixing process. The degassed state of catalyst ink was confirmed by MRI image and 1H NMR spectrum. 19F NMR spectra showed remarkable changes concerning the peaks associated with the main and side chains of Nafion, which indicated the dispersion state of Nafion varied during the mixing process.
In the present work, we have demonstrated that our experimental approach can provide a unique capability to investigate the dispersion state of catalyst ink. It is expected that the catalyst ink and its drying process will be investigated to optimize the fabrication process of PEFC catalyst layer.
This study is based on the results obtained from a project commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
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