Self and induced stabilized nanoparticles for electrocatalysis

Since few decades the search of new catalysts formulations for fuel cell applications has motivated numerous projects especially due to the future lack of fossil fuel, environmental and economical reasons. Consequently, Direct Alcohol Fuel Cell (DAFC) or Direct Formic Acid Fuel Cell domains have received great attention. In spite of the promising results reported recently, these types of fuel cell still exhibit some problems. In fact, platinum, bulk or nanoparticles, undergoes surface poisoning involved by intermediates (as acetaldehyde, acetic acid, carbon monoxide) which are strongly bonded to the surface. These poisoning species block the active sites at the surface electrode and drastically decrease the catalytic activity and also the life-time of the cell. Probable solutions are suggested essentially in Pt-based alloys catalysts or nanocatalysts in order to avoid this phenomenon. Therefore, multicomponent catalysts deposited at carbon electrodes (Boron-Doped Diamond and Highly Oriented Pyrolytic Graphite) has been investigated during this thesis. These two substrates have been chosen due to their outstanding properties. In the first part of this study, self stabilized nanoparticles at BDD substrate have been studied. Ex-situ ternary Pt-Ru-Sn microemulsion-synthesized nanoparticles deposited at BDD substrate were investigated towards both methanol and ethanol electrooxidation. Such type of composite electrode seemed to possess a greater efficiency towards methanol oxidation than observed for ethanol, leading essentially for the latter to C2 oxidation products. The inability of this catalyst to activate the C-C bond scission can explain this observation. However, the major enhancement was observed for the methanol electrooxidation. Recent studies have shown that gold nanoparticles exhibited surprising catalytic activity, very different from the bulk, making them a privileged candidate to replace or be added to platinum. Gold nanoparticles prepared with a twofold technique (sputtering followed by a heat treatment in air) have been characterized with both outer and inner-sphere redox reactions. It has been observed that the resulting electrochemical behavior of such type of composite electrode was similar to a gold microelectrodes array, due to the high difference between the two material electrochemical rate constants. In a morphological point of view, the processes of nucleation and growth engaged in the stabilized and well-dispersed gold nanoparticles formation have especially attracted a great attention. At BDD surface, the gold nanoparticles were located at specific sites (grain boundaries, defects, impurities,…). This phenomenon has motivated further investigations at HOPG substrate, known to possess a quite smooth and perfect surface. In the second part of this thesis, induced stabilized nanoparticles at HOPG surface were studied. In a first time, HOPG was morphologically and electrochemically characterized. The surface state has appeared to be a key parameter, essentially with the presence of the two surface species, the edge plane and the basal plane. High modifications in the electrochemical behavior of HOPG electrode were observed after an anodic pretreatment in acidic media, due to surface concentration increase of the edge plane species, which are highly reactive. Based on these results a tailoring of the HOPG has been performed in order to create nanocontainers for a further gold deposition. HOPG surface has been bombarded by gold clusters and then oxidized (etching step) under well-defined experimental conditions, leading in a tailored pattern of nanopits with high reliability and reproducibility. Gold deposition was performed by evaporation. The gold nanoparticles were located in the created nanocontainers and were found to be stable under cyclic voltammetric measurements in acidic media. A new synthesis method for a bimetallic or alloy system formed by Au and Pt nanoparticles stabilized at tailored HOPG surface was developed. Pt electrodeposited at Au/HOPG electrode surface have been observed to preferentially deposit on Au. In fact, gold nanoparticles were used as nucleation sites for the platinum particles. The resulting Pt-Au/HOPG electrodes were then heated at 400 °C in vacuum conditions to improve interactions between both metals. The appearance of an alloy was observed and characterized by a negative shift in the peak potential of Pt oxides reduction. Thanks to these results, Pt-Au/HOPG composite electrodes were applied for electrocatalytic oxidation. At a surface composition of P55-Au45 alloy, Pt-Au/HOPG after the heat treatment has demonstrated a higher electrocatalytic activity than before the heat treatment towards formic acid electrooxidation. It seemed that electronic and geometrical effect was responsible of such enhancement. Finally, bismuth adsorption at both P55-Au45/HOPG and polycrystalline platinum was investigated towards formic acid electrooxidation. The effect of Bi adatoms has been essentially ascribed to geometrical restrictions for CO to adsorb at platinum active sites. Drastic enhancement in current density at a fixed potential and dramatic decrease of the onset potential of formic acid oxidation were observed. Thus, it seemed that avoiding the CO poisoning can be the most judicious development for new electrocatalysts in fuel cell applications.

Comninellis, Christos
Foti, György
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis4446-0

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2009-05-14, last modified 2018-01-28

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