Nitrogen-Doped Carbon Nanotubes and their Composites as Oxygen Reduction Reaction Electrocatalysts for Low Temperature Fuel Cells
Higgins, Drew Christopher
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The extensive amount of platinum required in order to facilitate the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) occuring at the cathode of low temperature fuel cells provides cost limitations to the sustainable commercialization of this technology. The development of electrocatalyst materials with either reduced or eliminated platinum dependency is an urgent necessity. The present work investigates the application of nitrogen doped carbon nanotubes (N-CNTs) and their composites as electrocatalyst materials for the ORR. First, N-CNTs are investigated as platinum support materials for proton exchange membrane fuel cells. They were found to result in improved ORR activity in comparison with undoped CNT supported platinum, due to the enhanced catalyst-support interactions and electronic properties induced by nitrogen heteroatoms incorporated into the graphitic structure of CNTs. Second, N-CNTs synthesized from a variety of different precursor materials were investigated as ORR electrocatalysts in alkaline conditions. The influence of the precursor materials was illustrated with improved ORR activity and nitrogen concentration observed for N-CNTs synthesized with precursor materials containing higher nitrogen to carbon contents. Highly active N-CNTs based on ethylenediamine were fabricated into thin, free standing films for use as a stand-alone cathode catalyst layer in an alkaline anion exchange membrane fuel cell. Finally, metal-free N-CNTs were developed and demonstrated to provide promising ORR in the absence of any metal interactions.