Determination of active surface area and gas permeability of fuel cell catalyst layers
Within a hydrogen fuel cell, the cathode catalyst layer (CCL) is generally considered a limiting component in overall performance due to sluggish oxygen reduction reaction kinetics. The proposed internship is comprised of two projects, each characterizing the materials used in the CCL. The first project will investigate the permeability of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium gases through a series of polymer materials found in CCLs will be investigated to see how processing techniques, additive usage, and different suppliers impact resulting gas transport, which experiences impediments at high current densities. In the second project the surface area of catalyst in the CCL which is accessible for the oxygen reduction reaction will be determined for a series of CCLs prepared at the partner organization. The materials used and processing techniques are expected to change the accessible surface area which is an important factor in maximizing catalyst utilization. The partner organization will benefit by having an expanded knowledge base which will assist in making key design decisions for commercialization of fuel cell vehicles.