Development of anode catalysts for proton exchange membrane water electrolyser

Vinod Kumar Puthiyapura

    Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


    The proton exchange membrane water electrolyser (PEMWE) is a promising technology for the production of hydrogen from water. The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) has a high over potential cf. with the hydrogen evolution reaction and is one of the main reasons for the high energy demand of the electrolyser. RuO₂ and IrO₂ are the most active catalyst for OER, but are costly, making the electrolyser system expensive. In general, it is important to use stable, active and cheap catalysts in order to make a cost efficient electrolyser system. Supporting the active catalyst on a high surface area conducting support material is one of the approaches to reduce the precious metal loading on the electrode. Antimony tin oxide (ATO) and indium tin oxide (ITO) were studied as possible support materials for IrO₂ in the PEMWE anode prepared by the Adams method. The effect of the support material on the surface area, electronic conductivity, particle size and agglomeration were investigated. The IrO₂ showed highest conductivity (4.9 S cm-¹) and surface area (112 m2 g-¹) and decreased with the decrease in the IrO₂ loading. Using the catalysts in the membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) with Nafion®-115 membranes, at 80°C showed that the catalyst with better dispersion and conductivity gave better performance. The unsupported IrO₂ and 90% IrO₂ supported on ATO and ITO showed the best performance among all the catalysts tested, achieving a cell voltage of 1.73 V at 1 A cm-². A lower IrO₂ loading decreased the conductivity and surface area. The IrO₂ particle size and bulk conductivity of the supported catalyst significantly influenced the MEA performance. Overall, it is important to maintain a conductive network of IrO₂ on the non-conducting support to maintain the bulk conductivity and thus reduce the Ohmic potential drop. Although RuO₂ is the most active catalyst for OER, it lacks stability on long term operation. RuxNb1-xO₂ and IrxNb1-xO₂ catalysts were synthesized and characterized, to try to develop stable electrodes for PEMWE. However the Adams method of catalyst synthesis formed a sodium–niobium complex making it unsuitable for preparation of Nb based catalysts. In both Adams and hydrolysis methods of synthesis, the addition of Nb ₂O₅ decreased the anodic charge and electronic conductivity of the catalyst due to the dilution of the active RuO₂. The RuO₂ catalyst showed the best performance in MEA evaluation compared to the bimetallic catalyst (1.62 V and 1.75 V @1 A cm-² for RuO₂(A) and RuO₂(H) respectively). A higher stability for bimetallic catalyst compared to the monometallic catalysts was obtained from the continuous CV cycling and MEA stability test
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUniversity of Newcastle
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


    • Water electrolyser
    • PEMWE
    • Oxygen evolution reaction


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