Hydrogen fuel cells and water electrolyzers

Operando stability investigations of low PGM oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution electrocatalysts.

The future of the Europe’s energy security and the world’s climate stability depends on our ability to make a transition from fossil fuels to energy systems based on renewable sources. In this respect, an energy storage infrastructure based on hydrogen as an energy carrier is being considered. Even though the development of the two main components of such a system, fuel cells and electrolysers, is well advanced, the widespread adoption is hindered by the high cost. A significant cost contribution comes from the use of scarce platinum group metals (PGMs), Pt in fuel cells and Pt and Ir in electrolysers.

Therefore, much of the research and development is directed towards lowering the precious metal content and increasing the durability of the nano-catalysts typically used for these applications. In this project, we propose to systematically investigate the stability of a new generation of catalyst materials, which are now being evaluated for commercial use, by the means of in-operando studies using high energy X-ray scattering and X-ray spectroscopy. The aim is to compare the stability trends in the actual PEMFC and PEMWE devices for different combinations of catalyst nanoparticles (NPs) and supports, in order to develop more stable and lower PGM loading composite materials.

Further, we want to understand better the underlying principles leading to catalyst activity degradation and loss by dissolution, with different combinations of materials, so that we can determine the future R&D directions. We will use HE WAXS and SAXS techniques to follow the changes in the NP size, morphology and chemical composition as well as the morphological changes of the support during accelerated tests in the operational device. For the most promising materials, these experiments will be complemented by XAS measurements, for which we will develop a tailored electrochemical cell.
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