Design of nanocomposites for electrocatalysis and energy storage : metal/metal oxide nanoparticles on carbon supports

Slanac, Daniel Adam
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Controlling catalyst morphology and composition are required to make meaningful structure-activity/stability relationships for the design of future catalysts. Herein, we have employed strategies of presynthesis and infusion or electroless deposition to achieve exquisite control over catalyst composite morphology. The oxygen reduction (ORR) and the oxygen evolution reactions (OER) were chosen as model systems, as their slow kinetics is a major limiting factor preventing the commercialization of fuel cells and rechargeable metal air batteries. In acid, bimetallic (Pt-Cu, Pd-Pt) and monometallic (Pt) catalysts were presynthesized in the presence of capping ligands. Well alloyed Pt-Cu nanoparticles (3-5 nm) adsorbed on graphitic mesoporous carbon (GMC) displayed an ORR activity >4x that of commercial Pt. For both presynthesized Pt and Pt-Cu nanocrystals on GMC, no activity loss was also observed during degradation cycling due to strong metal-support interactions and the oxidation resistance of graphitic carbon. Similar strong metal-support interactions were achieved on non-graphitic carbon for Pd3Pt2 (<4 nm) nanoparticles due to disorder in the metal surface This led to enhanced mass activity 1.8x versus pure Pt, as well as improved stability. For basic electrolytes, we developed an electroless co-deposition scheme to deposit Ag (3 nm) next to MnOx nanodomains on carbon. We achieved a mass activity for Ag-MnOx/VC, 3x beyond the linear combination of pure component activities due to ensemble effects, where Ag and MnOx domains catalyze different ORR steps, and ligand effects from the unique electronic interaction at the Ag-MnOx interface. Activity synergy was also shown for Ag-Pd alloys (~5 nm), achieving up to 5x activity on a Pd basis, resulting from the unique alloy surface of single Pd atoms surrounded by Ag. Lastly, we combined arrested growth of amorphous nanoparticles with thin film freezing to create a high surface area, pure phase perovskite aggregate of nanoparticles after calcination. Sintering was mitigated during the high temperature calcination required to form the perovskite crystals. The high surface areas and phase purity led to OER mass activities ~2.5x higher than the benchmark IrO2 catalyst.