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Flammability Reduction in a Pressurised Water Electrolyser Based on a Thin Polymer Electrolyte Membrane through a Pt-alloy Catalytic Approach


Various Pt-based materials (unsupported Pt, PtRu, PtCo) were investigated as catalysts for recombining hydrogen and oxygen back into water. The recombination performance correlated well with the surface Pt metallic state. Alloying cobalt to platinum was observed to produce an electron transfer favouring the occurrence of a large fraction of the Pt metallic state on the catalyst surface. Unsupported PtCo showed both excellent recombination performance and dynamic behaviour. In a packed bed catalytic reactor, when hydrogen was fed at 4% vol. in the oxygen stream (flammability limit), 99.5% of the total H2 content was immediately converted to water in the presence of PtCo thus avoiding safety issues. The PtCo catalyst was thus integrated in the anode of the membrane-electrode assembly of a polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis cell. This catalyst showed good capability to reduce the concentration of hydrogen in the oxygen stream under differential pressure operation (1–20 bar), in the presence of a thin (90 μm) Aquivion® membrane. The modified system showed lower hydrogen concentration in the oxygen flow than electrolysis cells based on state-of-the-art thick polymer electrolyte membranes and allowed to expand the minimum current density load down to 0.15 A cm−2 . This was mainly due to the electrochemical oxidation of permeated H2 to protons that were transported back to the cathode. The electrolysis cell equipped with a dual layer PtCo/IrRuOx oxidation catalyst achieved a high operating current density (3 A cm−2 ) as requested to decrease the system capital costs, under high efficiency conditions (about 77% efficiency at 55 °C and 20 bar). Moreover, the electrolysis system showed reduced probability to reach the flammability limit under both high differential pressure (20 bar) and partial load operation (5%), as needed to properly address grid-balancing service

Funding source: CNR-ITAE authors acknowledge the financial support from the NEPTUNE project. This project has received funding from Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 779540. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research
Related subjects: Safety
Countries: Italy ; Spain

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