Significant differences in catalyst performance and durability are often observed between the use of a liquid electrolyte (e.g. sulfuric acid), and a solid polymer electrolyte (e.g. Nafion®). To understand this phenomenon, we studied the electrochemical behavior of a commercially available carbon supported platinum catalyst in four different electrode structures: catalyst powder (CP), catalyst ionomer electrode (CIE), half membrane electrode assembly (HMEA) and full membrane electrode assembly (FMEA) in both ex-situ and in-situ experiments under a simulated start/stop cycle. We found that the catalyst performance and stability are very much influenced by the presence of the Nafion ionomers. The proton conducting phase provided by the ionomer and the self-assembled electrode structure render the catalysts a higher utilization and better stability. This is probably due to an enhanced dispersion, an improved proton - catalyst interphase, the restriction of catalyst particle aggregation and the improved stability of the ionomer phase especially after the lamination. Therefore, an innovative electrode HMEA design for ex-situ catalyst characterization is proposed. The electrode structure is identical to the one used in a real fuel cell, where the protons transport takes place solely through solid state proton conducting phase.
A C S Applied Materials and Interfaces, 2014, Vol 6, Issue 19, p. 16565-76