Tuning the Ionomer Distribution in the Fuel Cell Catalyst Layer with Scaling the Ionomer Aggregate Size in Dispersion

G Doo and JH Lee and S Yuk and S Choi and DH Lee and DW Lee and HG Kim and SH Kwon and SG Lee and HT Kim, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 10, 17835-17841 (2018).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b01751

With the demands for better performance of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, studies on controlling the distribution of ionomers have recently gained interest. Here, we present a tunable ionomer distribution in the catalyst layer (CL) with dipropylene glycol (DPG) and water mixtures as the ionomer dispersion medium. Dynamic light scattering and molecular dynamics simulation demonstrate that, by increasing the DPG content in the dispersion, the size of the ionomer aggregates in the dispersion is exponentially reduced because of the higher affinity of DPG for Nafion ionomers. The ionomer distribution of the resulting CLs dictates the dimensional feature of the ionomer dispersion. Although the ionomer distribution becomes more uniform with increasing the DPG content, an optimal power performance is obtained at a DPG content of 50 wt % regardless of feed humidity because of balanced proton and mass transports. As a guide for tuning the ionomer distribution, we suggest that the ionomer aggregates in the dispersion with a size close to that of the Pt/C aggregates form a highly connected ionomer network and maintain a porosity in the catalyst/ionomer aggregate, resulting in high power performance.

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