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Détermination des mécanismes de dégradation d'électrodes modèles de pile à combustible à membrane échangeuse de protons

Abstract : State-of-the-art catalytic layers of proton-exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) utilize ionomer-bonded Pt-based nanocrystallites supported on a high surface area carbon support to accelerate the rate of the hydrogen oxidation reaction at the anode, and of the oxygen reduction reaction at the cathode. Post-mortem analysis of PEMFC catalytic layers reveal that four degradation mechanisms yield Pt surface area losses (and hence decreased PEMFC performance): (i) aggregation and/or detachment of the metal nanoparticles, (ii) corrosion of the carbon support, (iii) Ostwald ripening (dissolution/redeposition of the Pt-based crystallites) yielding the formation of ionic species and (iv) chemical reduction of the Ptz+ species in ion conductors, yielding the formation of electrically disconnected Pt crystallites. A major concern of the Ph.D. was to be able to isolate the migration of the Pt nanocrystallites. For that purpose, commercial Pt/Vulcan XC 72 electrocatalysts were aged in “mild” conditions, for which the corrosion of both the Pt nanoparticles and the carbon support could not be considered dominant. Evidences were provided that the Pt/C nanoparticles are not immobile but prone to agglomerate in the presence of H2, CH3OH, and CO, three molecules of interest for PEMFCs. The migration rate of the Pt crystallites was the largest in CO-containing solution and decreased in the order CO > CH3OH > H2. We postulate that the morphological changes of the Pt/C nanoparticles may be caused by (i) a change of the work of adhesion between the metal phase and the carbon support or (ii) the reduction of the oxygen-bearing surface groups strongly interacting with the Pt nanocrystallites. We also investigated the mechanism of the electrochemical oxidation of Vulcan XC72, a carbon black conventionally used in PEMFCs. Raman spectroscopy measurements evidenced that the disordered domains of the Vulcan XC72 support (non-graphitic, sp3-hybridized) are preferentially oxidized. The ordered domains (graphitic carbon, sp2-hybridized) of the Vulcan XC72 support are also oxidized but at a much smaller rate than that observed on the non-graphitic domains. A major consequence of the oxidation of the high-surface area carbon support is the aggregation and the detachment of the supported Pt nanoparticles. In Chapter V, we used model Pt/Sibunit electrocatalysts to show that aged catalytic layers with (i) low Pt to C weight fraction, (ii) large inter-particle distance, feature bad performance for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). The average number of transferred electrons produced during the ORR decreases below 4 with the decrease of the catalyst layer thickness or the Pt loading. This was rationalized by considering the lower probability for H2O2 molecules (the major reaction intermediate) to be re-adsorbed and further reduced into water in the catalytic layer when the inter-particle distance decreases. Finally, Pt nanowires (NWs) with 2.1 ± 0.2 nm crystallite size were synthesized by a soft template method. Evidences were provided that the morphology of the Pt material plays a pivotal role both in terms of electrocatalytic activity/stability: the 1D Pt NWs/C demonstrate a reduction by ca. 170 mV of the CO oxidation overpotential and feature high and stable MOR activity with respect to a conventional Pt/C 20 wt. % catalyst. The enhanced durability of Pt NWs/C was rationalized by considering (i) the increase in weight of the Pt nanomaterials resulting from the increase in size (from nanoparticles to nanowires) and (ii) the enhanced contact surface area between the Pt NWs and the carbon support. The development of 1D Pt nanostructures, such as Pt NWs, hold promises to solve the durability issues faced with the 0D materials currently used in PEMFCs.Keywords: proton exchange membrane fuel cell, durability of PEMFC materials, electrochemical carbon oxidation, crystallite migration, Pt nanowires.
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Zuzhen Zhao. Détermination des mécanismes de dégradation d'électrodes modèles de pile à combustible à membrane échangeuse de protons. Autre. Université de Grenoble, 2012. Français. ⟨NNT : 2012GRENI031⟩. ⟨tel-00764891v2⟩

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