Optimisation and effect of ionomer loading on porous Fe–N–C-based proton exchange membrane fuel cells probed by emerging electrochemical methods

Angus Pedersen, Rifael Z. Snitkoff-Sol, Yan Presman, Jesús Barrio, Rongsheng Cai, Theo Suter, Guangmeimei Yang, Sarah J. Haigh, Dan Brett, Rhodri Jervis, Maria Magdalena Titirici, Ifan E.L. Stephens, Lior Elbaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The next generation of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) require a substantial reduction or elimination of Pt-based electrocatalyst from the cathode, where O2 reduction takes place. The most promising alternative to Pt is atomic Fe embedded in N-doped C (Fe–N–C). Successful incorporation of Fe–N–C in PEMFCs relies on a thorough understanding of the catalyst layer properties, both ex situ and in situ, with tailored electrode interface engineering. To help resolve this conundrum, we provide a quantitative protocol on the optimisation of I/C for Fe–N–Cs. It is demonstrated that a high pore volume (3.33 cm3 g−1FeNC) Fe–N–C catalyst requires a sufficiently high ionomer to catalyst mass ratio (I/C, 2.8≤I/C ≤ 4.2) for optimum PEMFC activity under H2/O2. Emerging electrochemical techniques (distribution of relaxation times and Fourier transformed alternating current voltammetry) were used to deconvolute for the first time the trade-off between proton and electron resistance and accessible FeNx active site density with increasing ionomer loading. These findings highlight the significant impact of tuning the I/C ratio based on the catalyst layer properties and feature the power of evolving electrochemical tools for optimising performance in PEMFCs and other electrochemical devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number234683
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Volume609
DOIs
StatePublished - 30 Jul 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors

Keywords

  • Electrocatalyst
  • Fourier transformed alternating current voltammetry
  • Fuel cell
  • Ionomer
  • Single atom

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