Development of anode catalysts for direct alcohol fuel cells

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Lee, Eungje

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Direct alcohol fuel cells (DAFC) are attracting considerable interest to meet a variety of energy needs as they offer higher efficiency with less pollution compared to other conventional energy-conversion devices. However, the sluggish alcohol oxidation reaction kinetics and durability problems of the conventional Pt-Ru anode catalyst hamper the commercialization of the DAFC systems. With an aim to overcome these problems, there have been intensive efforts to alloy Pt-Ru with other metals. Although such strategies have led to some enhancement in activity, the durability problem caused by the instability of Ru could still not be alleviated. In this regard, this dissertation focuses on the development of non-Ru electrocatalysts with high activity and durability for DAFC applications. First, Ru-free, Pt-based bimetallic electrocatalysts for methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) were studied. Particularly, Pt-Sn and Pt-CeO₂ catalysts were synthesized, respectively, by a polyol method and a one-step reverse microemulsion (RME) method. The prepared samples are investigated for phase and morphological evaluations by various material-characterization techniques. Cyclic voltammetry and accelerated durability tests revealed that these alternative catalysts have much higher stability with a catalytic activity for MOR comparable to that of Pt-Ru. In the case of Pt-CeO₂, an improved particle morphology is obtained by the RME synthesis, and the advantage of the RME method is reflected by a higher catalytic activity in comparison to that of Pt-CeO₂ synthesized by the conventional synthesis method. It has been known that Pt-Sn is better than Pt-Ru for ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR), and the direct ethanol fuel cells (DEFC) employing Pt-Sn as the anode catalyst have better durability than the DMFC system employing a Pt-Ru anode catalyst. Therefore, this dissertation then focused on the enhancement of the catalytic activity for EOR by incorporating a third metal M to the Pt-Sn catalyst. Following the synthesis and characterization of the Pt-Sn-M (M = Mo and Pd) alloys, the effect of M on the enhanced catalytic activity of Pt-Sn-M is presented. The activity enhancement of the above catalysts is based on the promoting effect of the second or third elements added to Pt. However, in the final chapter of this dissertation, the activity enhancement of Pt nanoparticle itself through the formation of low energy surfaces is investigated. Carbon-supported Pt nanoparticles are synthesized in mixed water-ethylene glycol solvent, and the positive effect of the mixed solvent on both the morphology and surface structure of the Pt nanoparticles for COad oxidation is discussed.



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