Sol-Gel Process for Making Pt-Ru Fuel-Cell Catalysts
- Created: Saturday, 01 October 2005
Relative to another process, this one takes less time and yields better results.
A sol-gel process has been developed as a superior alternative to a prior process for making platinum-ruthenium alloy catalysts for electro-oxidation of methanol in fuel cells. The starting materials in the prior process are chloride salts of platinum and ruthenium. The process involves multiple steps, is time-consuming, and yields a Pt-Ru product that has relatively low specific surface area and contains some chloride residue. Low specific surface area translates to incomplete utilization of the catalytic activity that might otherwise be available, while chloride residue further reduces catalytic activity (“poisons” the catalyst). In contrast, the sol-gel process involves fewer steps and less time, does not leave chloride residue, and yields a product of greater specific area and, hence, greater catalytic activity.
The precursor powder is converted to the final product in a controlled-atmos-phere heat treatment. Desirably, the final product is a phase-pure (Pt phase only) Pt-Ru powder with a high specific surface area. The conditions of the controlled atmosphere heat are critical for obtaining the aforementioned desired properties. A typical heat treatment that yields best results for a catalytic alloy of equimolar amounts of Pt and Ru consists of at least two cycles of heating to a temperature of 300°C and holding at 300°C for several hours, all carried out in an atmosphere of 1 percent O2 and 99 percent N2. The resulting powder consists of crystallites with typical linear dimensions of <10 nm. Tests have shown that the powder is highly effective in catalyzing the electro-oxidation of methanol.
This work was done by Sekharipuram Narayanan and Thomas Valdez of Caltech, and Prashant Kumta and Y. Kim of Carnegie-Mellon University for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Materials category.
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Refer to NPO-30500, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.
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