How Malvern Panalytical’s solutions can help revolutionize the production of PEM electrolyzer and fuel cells
Grey, blue, turquoise, green, yellow, pink… no, we’re not trying to name all the colors of the rainbow – we’re just listing the many colors of hydrogen! While this abundant, efficient, and extremely useful gas has no color, we use these colorful terms to indicate how hydrogen is produced, and what impact it has on our climate. And in this kaleidoscope of hydrogen colors, it’s green hydrogen that has fired the most conversations in recent years. That’s because this renewable gas has huge potential for helping industries meet the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
Green hydrogen is produced by the electrolysis of water, using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. To perform this electrolysis most efficiently, electrolyzers based on polymer electrolyte member (PEM) technology are widely used by hydrogen producers. And now things get even more interesting! By inverting this process, it’s possible to make PEM fuel cells (PEMFCs), which can be used to generate electricity using hydrogen as fuel and oxygen as an oxidizing agent. These cells, which operate at relatively low temperatures and are capable of quickly varying their output to meet shifting power demands, are an ideal solution for a range of industries – including the transport and energy sectors. With this innovative technology, a fossil-free future for some of our most important industrial industries might finally be within reach…
Facing the challenges of PEMFC production
But we’re not there yet! To produce PEMFCs on a large scale – and to ensure industries can embrace this revolutionary technology – it’s essential that their cost and quality are optimized. As the catalytic material used to produce PEMFC electrodes is the component that determines both the performance and cost of these cells, this is a good place to start. The catalytic ink used in PEMFCs is usually composed of a mixture of catalytic active material, an ionomer, and a dispersion solvent. And, within the ink, the catalyst is usually a composite of platinum (Pt) metal nanoparticles deposited on activated carbon. The activity and stability of these catalysts are critical factors in PEMFCs’ ultimate performance.
So, how do you control the catalytic activity? Well, the catalytic activity is determined by a range of parameters, including size, dispersion, and morphology of the Pt metal group nanoparticles. And equally important are the structural, textural, and surface chemistry properties of the catalytic ink. In addition, by optimizing the structure of the activated carbon, you can significantly reduce the amount of Pt needed, reducing the cost and improving the efficiency of the whole operation. Plus, this optimization can also maximize the energy efficiency of the final fuel cells. However, with so many analytical processes to consider in making the best and most viable PEMFCs, where do you actually start?
Putting our analytical solutions to the test
That’s the question we set out to answer in our latest application note! Through an array of careful studies, we tested a range of analytical techniques, to see how each method performed in the PEMFCs’ production process. From XRD to XRF, laser diffraction to automated image analysis, we explored how precise and effective each of these methods really is in everything from particle morphological and elemental composition analysis to the particle size analysis at various levels, from Pt particles to carbon support matrix. If you want to know how our XRF solutions can be used to deliver up to 0.1% precision in Pt loading, how quick and simple the comparison of particle shape is using our morphological image tool, or how versatile our XRD instruments are in determining Pt particle size, simply take a look at the note here!
For those looking to optimize the cost and performance of PEM technology, maximize catalyst efficiency, reduce the amount of Pt needed in the PEMFCs’ production, or develop Pt-based alloy nanoparticles, look no further than this application note. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is not how effective each of these tools are in isolation, but how powerful they are when used together. Well, we’ll leave that to you to experiment it yourself! One thing’s for sure – a bright future for the green hydrogen lies ahead. Are you ready to embrace it by developing the novel electrocatalysts that can accelerate this transition?
Written by: Umesh Tiwari Posted by: Malvern Panalytical (www,materials-talks.com)