From ink structure to proton exchange membrane fuel cell electrode performance

Investigation of manufacturing process related structure and performance of fuel cell electrode thanks to Neutron and X-Ray small angle scattering and imaging

Zero emission automotive using hydrogen as a fuel and powered by a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell are now commercially available. However, large-scale commercialization of PEM fuel cell vehicles requires progress in performance, cost and durability, for which the electrode is the most limiting component. It is made of a random assembly of platinum based nanoparticles within a proton conducting polymer network. The electrode is obtained from a slurry after evaporating the solvents. Currently, research and development to improve the performance of the electrode and reduce the cost of manufacturing rely on a trial and error basis. The goal of this project is to increase the knowledge on the relationships between ink composition, electrode structure, properties and performance.

The evolution of the ink during the drying process and the so obtained electrode will be characterized using neutron and X-Ray scattering, as complementary tools to unravel the organization of the catalyst material and of the polymer. By correlating these results with Operando electrochemical, structural and imaging measurements, we aim at rationalizing the design of the electrodes. This project involves partners having all the complementary skills needed for this study of most interest for the industrial partner, which is a leader in the research, development and production of fuel cell cars.