Insight into Oxygen Transport in Solid and High-Surface-Area Carbon Supports of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

JB You and ZF Zheng and XJ Cheng and HY Li and CH Fu and LX Luo and GH Wei and SY Shen and XH Yan and JL Zhang, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 15, 21457-21466 (2023).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.3c01631

Understanding the oxygen transport mechanism through an ionomer film that covered the catalyst surface is essential for reducing local oxygen transport resistance and improving the low Pt-loading proton exchange membrane fuel cell performance. Besides the ionomer material, the carbon supports, upon which ionomers and catalyst particles are dispersed, also play a crucial role in local oxygen transport. Increasing attention has been paid to the effects of carbon supports on local transport, but the detailed mechanism is still unclear. Herein, the local oxygen transports based on conventional solid carbon (SC) and high-surface-area carbon (HSC) supports are investigated by molecular dynamics simulations. It is found that oxygen diffuses through the ionomer film that covered the SC supports via "effective diffusion" and "ineffective diffusion". The former denotes the process by which oxygen diffuses directly from the ionomer surface to the Pt upper surface through small and concentrated regions. In contrast, ineffective diffusion suffers more restrictions by both carbon-and Pt-dense layers, and thus, the oxygen pathways are long and tortuous. The HSC supports exhibit larger transport resistance relative to SC supports due to the existence of micropores. Also, the major transport resistance originates from the carbon-dense layer as it inhibits oxygen from diffusing downward and migrating toward the pore opening, while the oxygen transport inside the pore is facile along the pore's inner surface, which leads to a specific and short diffusion pathway. This work provides insight into oxygen transport behavior with SC and HSC supports, which is the basis for the development of high- performance electrodes with low local transport resistance.

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