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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring substrate/ionomer interaction under oxidizing and reducing environments


Local gas transport limitation attributed to the ionomer thin-film in the catalyst layer is a major deterrent to widespread commercialization of polymer-electrolyte fuel cells. So far functionality and limitations of these thin-films have been assumed identical in the anode and cathode. In this study, Nafion ionomer thin-films on platinum(Pt) support were exposed to H2 and air as model schemes, mimicking anode and cathode catalyst layers. Findings indicate decreased swelling, increased densification of ionomer matrix, and increased humidity-induced aging rates in reducing environment, compared to oxidizing and inert environments. Observed phenomenon could be related to underlying Pt-gas interaction dictating Pt-ionomer behavior. Presented results could have significant implications about the disparate behavior of ionomer thin-film in anode and cathode catalyst layers.

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