Chemical and electrochemical promotion of supported rhodium catalyst

The chemical and electrochemical promotion of highly dispersed nanofilm Rh catalysts (dispersion: about 10 %, film thickness: 40 nm) has been investigated for the first time. To this end Rh metal was sputter-deposited, either on a purely ionic conductor (8 % Y2O3-stabilized ZrO2) or on a mixed ionic-electronic conductor (TiO2), the latter being a highly dispersed layer of TiO2 (4 µm) deposited on YSZ. These catalysts are designated as Rh/YSZ and Rh/TiO2/YSZ, respectively. It was established analytically that both in the Rh/YSZ and in the Rh/TiO2/YSZ system, the catalyst films have a nanoparticle-size grain structure. The Rh supported on titania is rather porous, exhibiting a higher dispersion and surface area than Rh on YSZ. Both after reduction (H2, T=400 °C) and after oxidation (O2, T=400 °C), Rh supported on TiO2 was found to be in a more highly reduced state than Rh on YSZ. After reducing treatment, the Rh/TiO2/YSZ samples contain a larger amount of weakly bonded oxygen, which can be attributed to oxygen "backspillover" from the TiO2. A major feature of this research was the electrochemical characterization of the oxygen/Rh/solid electrolyte three-phase boundary by steady-state polarization measurements and by impedance spectroscopy. These are powerful techniques for extracting experimental trends and details that are useful for an understanding of the electrochemical promotion principles. It was shown that the exchange current densities at the Rh/solid electrolyte interface are lower on account of the TiO2 layer. The exchange current densities are more than twice lower at Rh/TiO2(4 µm)/YSZ than at Rh/YSZ, demonstrating that the former interface is much more polarizable. The mechanism of oxygen exchange occurring close to equilibrium (O2/O2- couple) was investigated for the first time at Rh catalyst electrodes interfaced with solid electrolyte. The processes of cathodic oxygen reduction and anodic oxygen evolution are not symmetric, but they are similar in the two systems, Rh/YSZ and Rh/TiO2(4 µm)/YSZ. The cathodic process consists of three steps: dissociative adsorption of oxygen at the gas-exposed Rh surface, atomic oxygen diffusion to the electrochemical reaction sites (ERS), and a two-electron transfer to this oxygen on the ERS. The cathodic process is limited by interfacial diffusion of oxygen atoms from the gas-exposed metal surface to the ERS. The anodic process includes two steps: two-electron transfer reaction, which is the rate-determining step, and oxygen desorption to the gas phase. With data obtained from impedance spectroscopy at the equilibrium potential, it was possible to confirm the reaction scheme proposed. It was demonstrated that Rh nanofilm catalysts interfaced with YSZ or TiO2/YSZ can be electrochemically promoted for the reaction of ethylene oxidation. Small anodic currents cause periodic oscillations in catalytic rate and potential of the Rh/YSZ catalyst, while at Rh/TiO2/YSZ they give rise to a stable and reversible rate enhancement by up to a factor 80. The increase in ethylene oxidation rate is up to 2000 times larger than the electrochemical rate, I/2F, of O2- oxidation. The pronounced electrochemical promotion behavior that has been observed is due to the anodically controlled migration of O2- species from the electrolyte to the Rh/gas interface. At the Rh surface, these species destabilize the formation of rhodium surface oxide (Rh2O3). The existence of backspillover oxygen species has been confirmed by impedance measurements under positive applied potential. Another significant result for heterogeneous catalysis is the finding that thick as well as thin films of Rh/TiO2/YSZ catalyst are open to chemical promotion of ethylene oxidation and partial methane oxidation, ie, they offer a higher catalytic activity and stability than the Rh/YSZ catalysts. The modification of catalytic activity observed for Rh/TiO2/YSZ was attributed to either a "long-range" electronic-type SMSI mechanism or to a self-driven electrochemical promotion mechanism. In both cases, the ultimate cause of promotion are different work functions of catalyst and support. Equilibration of the work functions of two solids in contact induces surface charging, a migration of O2- ions to the catalyst/gas interface, and a weakening of the Rh-O chemisorptive bonds. It facilitates reduction of oxidized surface sites. Another important achievement of the present work was that of exploring and confirming the possibilities of current-assisted activation of Rh/TiO2/YSZ catalysts. In partial methane oxidation using close to stoichiometric gas compositions (CH4 : O2 = 2 : 1) at 550 °C, the inactive (oxidized) Rh/TiO2/YSZ catalyst was successfully activated by applied currents, either positive or negative. This phenomenon is an example of "permanent" electrochemical promotion furnishing a permanent rate enhancement ratio of γ = 11. The activation by negative currents is explained in terms of an electrochemical reduction of rhodium surface oxide, while the activation by positive currents can be explained by the mechanism of electrochemical promotion.

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 3245 (2005)
    Section de chimie et génie chimique
    Faculté des sciences de base
    Institut des sciences et ingénierie chimiques
    Groupe de génie électrochimique
    Jury: Yann Beaufils, György Foti, Claude Friedli, Hubert van den Bergh, Costas G. Vayenas

    Public defense: 2005-6-10


    Record created on 2005-04-06, modified on 2016-08-08

Related material