Synthesis and characterization of Pt/TiO2/C composite catalysts for fuel cells prepared using a glucose modifier
MetadataShow full item record
Catalysts in the electrodes of polymer exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) serve a critical function in reactions which can be used to generate electrical energy from chemical fuels. Pt nanoparticles are commonly dispersed on a conductive support and used as electrode materials in these devices because of their exceptional catalytic activity and electrochemical active surface area. The performance and stability of these electrodes strongly depend on the characteristics of the support. Catalysts supported on high surface area carbon black are widely used in low-temperature fuel cells. In PEMFCs, these catalyst materials can be exposed to high potential and low pH values, resulting in irreversible loss of activity that will limit the useful lifetime of the cell, ultimately leading to its failure. Pt is a noble metal which has good intrinsic stability, but carbon is not thermodynamically stable resulting in the corrosion of the catalyst support under these conditions. The design of more resilient platinum catalyst supports to carry out the successful reaction in a fuel cell’s catalyst layer is required to extend the lifetime of PEMFCs degradation. In this thesis, two approaches were used to synthesize robust catalyst support materials for fuel cell applications. In the first case, carbon surfaces were functionalised to enhance their interactions with the catalyst and secondly, stable metal oxide was combined with modified carbon substrates, to maximise contacts within the composite electrocatalysts and to prevent carbon corrosion of a single phase carbon support catalyst. TiO2 NPs, were first chemically bonded to the surfaces of Vulcan carbon to help anchor the Pt catalyst nanoparticles through strong metal-support interactions. Validation of a dual phase catalyst support is an important goal of this research. Each material phase offers a unique advantage that can only be recognized by the preparation of a composite electrocatalyst. Pristine Vulcan (PV) was functionalised with glucose hydroxyl functional groups that react with the base titanium metal alkoxide in a sol-gel reaction and then calcined to form a more chemically crystalline surface. This is followed by impregnation reduction process to deposit the nanostructured Pt catalyst. Material characterization data of synthesized materials were used to correlate the effects of support structure and composition on resilient performance. Advantages from the TiO2/C supports toward performance and durability were contrasted against a set of control samples and demonstrated ex situ. The prepared composite catalysts showed substantial enhancements toward oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) as well as improved stability of the Pt-TiO2 heterogeneous interface formed between catalyst and support. The enhanced performance and durability of these composite catalysts is improved by applying the science of materials and interfaces to the synthesis of composite supports, thus serving as an example for further progress and optimization. Irradiation of these composite catalysts with UV-visible light also showed ~ 171 % photo enhanced activity for MOR, which clearly demonstrates a synergistic effect between the photo- and electrocatalysts. The comparison between the prepared catalysts indicates that there is an appropriate ratio of carbon and TiO2 to obtain the best performance of these photoelectroactive materials. These results demonstrate that methanol oxidation is achieved by electro- and photoelectrocatalysis using a simple and affordable method. This procedure can be conveniently exploited to enhance the response of direct methanol fuel cell electrodes.