2011

Iridium-Doped Ruthenium Oxide Catalyst for Oxygen Evolution

Possible applications of this catalyst include fabrication of water electrolysis units in hydrogen generators.

NASA requires a durable and efficient catalyst for the electrolysis of water in a polymer-electrolyte-membrane (PEM) cell. Ruthenium oxide in a slightly reduced form is known to be a very efficient catalyst for the anodic oxidation of water to oxygen, but it degrades rapidly, reducing efficiency. To combat this tendency of ruthenium oxide to change oxidation states, it is combined with iridium, which has a tendency to stabilize ruthenium oxide at oxygen evolution potentials. The novel oxygen evolution catalyst was fabricated under flowing argon in order to allow the iridium to preferentially react with oxygen from the ruthenium oxide, and not oxygen from the environment.

Nanoparticulate iridium black and anhydrous ruthenium oxide are weighed out and mixed to 5–18 atomic percent. They are then heat treated at 300 °C under flowing argon (in order to create an inert environment) for a minimum of 14 hours. This temperature was chosen because it is approximately the creep temperature of ruthenium oxide, and is below the sintering temperature of both materials. In general, the temperature should always be below the sintering temperature of both materials. The iridiumdoped ruthenium oxide catalyst is then fabricated into a PEM-based membrane-electrode assembly (MEA), and then mounted into test cells.

The result is an electrolyzer system that can sustain electrolysis at twice the current density, and at the same efficiency as commercial catalysts in the range of 100–200 mA/cm2. At 200 mA/cm2, this new system operates at an efficiency of 85 percent, which is 2 percent greater than commercially available catalysts. Testing has shown that this material is as stable as commercially available oxygen evolution catalysts. This means that this new catalyst can be used to regenerate fuel cell systems in space, and as a hydrogen generator on Earth.

This work was done by Thomas I. Valdez, Sri R. Narayan, and Keith J. Billings of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to: Innovative Technology Assets Management JPL Mail Stop 202-233 4800 Oak Grove Drive Pasadena, CA 91109-8099 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46387

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