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Record activity and stability of dealloyed bimetallic catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cells

Han, Binghong; Carlton, Christopher E.; Kongkanand, Anusorn; Kukreja, Ratandeep S.; Theobald, Brian R.; Gan, Lin; O'Malley, Rachel; Strasser, Peter; Wagner, Frederick T.; Shao-Horn, Yang

We demonstrate the unprecedented proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) performance durability of a family of dealloyed Pt-Ni nanoparticle catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), exceeding scientific and technological state-of-art activity and stability targets. We provide atomic-scale insight into key factors controlling the stability of the cathode catalyst by studying the influence of particle size, the dealloying protocol and post-acid-treatment annealing on nanoporosity and passivation of the alloy nanoparticles. Scanning transmission electron microscopy coupled to energy dispersive spectroscopy data revealed the compositional variations of Ni in the particle surface and core, which were combined with an analysis of the particle morphology evolution during PEMFC voltage cycling; together, this enabled the elucidation of alloy structure and compositions conducive to long-term PEMFC device stability. We found that smaller size, less-oxidative acid treatment and annealing significantly reduced Ni leaching and nanoporosity formation while encouraged surface passivation, all resulting in improved stability and higher catalytic ORR activity. This study demonstrates a successful example of how a translation of basic catalysis research into a real-life device technology may be done.
Published in: Energy & environmental science, 10.1039/c4ee02144d, Royal Society of Chemistry