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Impact of Catalyst Ink Dispersing Solvent on PEM Fuel Cell Performance and Durability...

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Journal of the Electrochemical Society
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The dispersing solvent used for fuel cell catalyst ink preparation plays a vital role in establishing the resulting morphology of the electrode layers, which in turn will impact the performance of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. In this study, we report the impact of various ionomer dispersion solvents on PEM fuel cell performance and durability; two aqueous (1-propanol/water and 2-propanol/water) and several non-aqueous dispersing solvents (ethylene glycol and 1,2-butanediol) are compared. The cathode catalyst layer (CCL) fabricated using inks prepared with 1-propanol/water (3:1, w/w) exhibited the best initial performance followed by the CCL prepared using ethylene glycol. The CCLs made from non-aqueous ethylene glycol and 1,2-butanediol exhibited the best durability upon accelerated stress testing. Scanning transmission electron microscopy combined with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy indicated that, after the stress test, the distribution of both the Nafion ionomer and Pt nanoparticles within the CCLs prepared with non-aqueous ionomer dispersions underwent less change than those prepared with aqueous dispersions, which is responsible for the improved durability.