Prof. Philippe Vereecken
Prof. Nathalie Job (ULiège)
Alternative electrocatalytic strategies for alkaline-based water electrolyzers & fuel cells
We will use a nanomesh electrode, thin-film catalyst and thin-film nanocomposite electrolyte technologies to fabricate Gas-Diffusion-Electrodes for hydrogen fuel cells. Secondly, we will investigate mass transport and intrinsic catalytic effects.
State-of-the-art hydrogen fuel-cell technology relies on carbon-based membrane electrode assemblies with catalyst coatings for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR). Recently, the imec group has established a fabrication process for a three-dimensional metal nanomesh by combining anodization and electrodeposition processes. Unique to this nanomesh is its very large internal surface area of around 30x per micron in mesh thickness combined with a very high porosity of 70-80 % allowing easy access of gasses. As such, a few micrometer thin electrodes with ECSA exceeding 100x while having excellent accessibility. Low catalyst loading for compact MEA will be explored in this PhD project.
A systematic investigation of transport and the confinement of reaction products in the nanomesh will provide the necessary insights for design of the nanomesh architecture for optimum performance. Also, the catalytic properties of the nanomesh itself will be addressed, e.g., next to having a catalytic nanomesh material, 2D thin-film coatings will behave intrinsically different than nanoparticle decorated current collectors. This radical new design in electrocatalytic electrodes is expected to boost performance of gas diffusion electrodes for fuel cells and other vapor based electrochemical devices. The investigations are done for alkaline water electrolyzers and fuel cells to avoid Pt group metals (PGMs).
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