Spark Ablation for the Fabrication of PEM Water Electrolysis Catalyst-Coated Membranes

TitleSpark Ablation for the Fabrication of PEM Water Electrolysis Catalyst-Coated Membranes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsF.M. Sapountzi, M. Lavorenti, W.L. Vrijburg, S. Dimitriadou, B. Tyburska-Püschel, P. Thune, J.W. Niemantsverdriet, T.V. Pfeiffer, M.N. Tsampas

Proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) electrolyzers represent a promising technology for sustainable hydrogen production, owing to their efficiency and load flexibility. However, the acidic nature of PEM demands the use of platinum-group metal-electrocatalysts. Apart from the associated high capital costs, the scarcity of Ir hinders the large-scale implementation of the technology. Since low-cost replacements for Ir are not available at present, there is an urgent need to engineer catalyst-coated membranes (CCMs) with homogeneous catalyst layers at low Ir loadings. Efforts to realize this mainly rely on the development of advanced Ir nanostructures with maximized dispersion via wet chemistry routes. This study demonstrates the potential of an alternative vapor-based process, based on spark ablation and impaction, to fabricate efficient and durable Ir- and Pt-coated membranes. Our results indicate that spark-ablation CCMs can reduce the Ir demand by up to five times compared to commercial CCMs, without a compromise in activity. The durability of spark-ablation CCMs has been investigated by applying constant and dynamic load profiles for 150 h, indicating different degradation mechanisms for each case without major pitfalls. At constant load, an initial degradation in performance was observed during the first 30 h, but a stable degradation rate of 0.05 mV h-1 was sustained during the rest of the test. The present results, together with manufacturing aspects related to simplicity, costs and environmental footprint, suggest the high potential of spark ablation having practical applications in CCM manufacturing.





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