Effect of High Surface Area Carbon Addition on the Performance of a Non-Precious Metal Catalyst in a PEM Fuel Cell

Christopher Andrew Neal


In Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs) the structure and morphology of the electrode layer directly affects the value of the electrochemical resistance, which has an impact in the cell performance. These effects become particularly relevant when the cathode catalyst is based on a non-precious metal due to the higher catalyst loadings required to compensate for the lower catalytic activity when compared to Pt based catalysts. In previous experiments performed in our lab, a pyrolyzed iron (III) porphyrin framework (PCPF-Fe) material was characterized, exhibiting a good single cell performance. In this study, the addition of a high surface carbon to the PCPF-Fe was conducted in an attempt to increase the surface area and the electron conductivity and, consequently, improve the activity and stability of the material. For this purpose, as-synthetized PCPF-Fe was mixed with Ketjenblack (KJB) carbon to four different ratios, pyrolyzed and its catalytic activity towards the ORR was evaluated using rotating ring disk electrode (RRDE) experiments. The structure and morphology of the catalyst layer were analyzed through scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and X-Ray Diffraction (XRD). The best performed mixture was 50% PCPF-Fe, and exhibited a higher onset potential (0.868 V in the 100% vs. 1.016 V in the 50%) and limiting current density (-4.6mA/cm2 in the 100% vs. -6.0mA/cm2 in the 50%) to that of the pure material. The material was then used as the cathode electrode in a single cell. The maximum current density obtained in single cell test for the 50% PCPF-Fe was only a third of that obtained with a 100% PCPF-Fe (0.25A/cm2 vs. 0.81A/cm2) cathode with the same catalyst loading, which could be a result of the lower density of catalytic centers in the mixture.


Catalysis; Non- precious metal catalysts; Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

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