Spinel MnO2 As a Rapidly Oxidizing Cathode Material for Fuel Cell/Battery Systems
MnO2 can have different crystalloid structures, depending on the allocation of the MnO6 octahedra. In previous work, we have mostly focused on electrolytic manganese dioxide (EMD), also called γ-MnO2, in which the MnO6 octahedra are aligned to create a combination of 2x1 and 1x1 tunnel structures. In this work, however, we investigated the possibility of utilizing spinel MnO2, also known as λ-MnO2, as an alternative
To obtain λ-MnO2, we first synthesized LiMn2O4 via a solid state reaction of EMD with LiOH. The result was a spinel structure with Li+ ions occupying the tetrahedral sites. The lithium ions can then be removed chemically in a diluted acid, thereby leaving the solid in a spinel structure. We then analyzed the performance of λ-MnO2 for the application in FCB and compared it with γ-MnO2. For this, we manufactured half-cells, cycled the samples electrochemically and recharged MnOOH in an oxygen-saturated alkaline solution in an autoclave.
The cathodes were manufactured through a pasting method with a slurry consisting of MnO2, carbon black (CB) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) in a weight ratio of 100:15:10 dissolved in xylene. Half-cells were assembled with nickel foam and Hg/HgO as counter and reference electrode, respectively, polypropylene as separator and a 6M KOH solution as electrolyte.
Compared with γ-MnO2, λ-MnO2 shows a similar capacity during the first discharge, but loses a high capacity between the first and second discharge. Afterwards, capacity loss is considerably lower and at around the same rate as for γ-MnO2. However, in terms of rechargeability with oxygen, λ-MnO2 shows superior results. In an oxygen-saturated 6M KOH solution under 1MPa pressure, after 1 hour, the fully discharged λ-MnO2 recharged to 15% of its maximum theoretical capacity, compared to 10% of γ-MnO2.
These are very promising results on our target of combining the advantages of fuel cells with batteries. Further research is thus being conducted, mainly focusing on improving rechargeability of λ-MnO2.