Modeling the Effect of Low Pt loading Cathode Catalyst Layer in Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells. Part I: Model Formulation and Validation

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IOP Science
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A model for the cathode catalyst layer (CL) is presented, which is validated with previous experimental data in terms of both performance and oxygen transport resistance. The model includes a 1D macroscopic description of proton, electron and oxygen transport across the CL thickness, which is locally coupled to a 1D microscopic model that describes oxygen transport toward Pt sites. Oxygen transport from the channel to the CL and ionic transport across the membrane are incorporated through integral boundary conditions. The model is complemented with data of effective transport and electrochemical properties extracted from multiple experimental works. The results show that the contribution of the thin ionomer film and Pt/ionomer interface increases with the inverse of the roughness factor. Whereas the contribution of the water film and the water/ionomer interface increases with the ratio between the geometric area and the surface area of active ionomer. Moreover, it is found that CLs diluted with bare carbon provide lower performance than non-diluted samples due to their lower electrochemical surface area and larger local oxygen transport resistance. Optimized design of non-diluted samples with a good distribution of the overall oxygen flux among Pt sites is critical to reduce mass transport losses at low Pt loading.
Pt loading, Oxygen transport, Composition, Catalyst layer, Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells
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Journal of The Electrochemical Society, (2021), 168(12), 124514.