Iridium based mixed oxides as efficient anode catalysts for Solid Polymer Electrolyte (SPE) electrolysers
The objective of the thesis is to develop highly efficient catalysts for solid polymer electrolyte (SPE) electrolyser anodes.The anode is the primary cause of the large overpotential of SPE electrolysers and also adds significantly to the cost of the electrolysers. Currently, unsupported IrO2 is a widely used anode catalyst as it exhibits the best stability during the oxygen evolution reaction. The activity of IrO2 needs to be improved significantly to address the high cost and efficiency issues of the SPE electrolyser. Developments aimed at improving the activity of unsupported IrO2 are however limited due to the limitations of the wellknown supports under the operating conditions of electrolysers, leading to their oxidation.In this study binary metal oxides based on IrO2 were developed and optimized as anode catalysts for the SPE electrolyser and compared to the ‘state-of-art’ commercial IrO2 catalyst. The Adams fusion method was adapted and used to synthesize the catalysts.The activities of the catalysts were determined using half-cell studies. Optimum conditions for the preparation of unsupported IrO2 catalysts were found to be 350 oC and 2 hours. The resulting catalysts had twice the activity of the ‘state-of-art’ commercial IrO2 catalyst. Secondary metals were carefully selected, after carrying out both a literature study and an experimental study. Binary metal oxides were then developed using the optimum synthesis conditions. Four binary metal oxides were studied to identify the best/most efficient catalyst for electrolysis. The catalysts were characterized using XRD, TEM, SEM and EDS analyses, in efforts to understand and correlate the activity of the catalysts to its physical properties and obtain information that could be useful for the further development of efficient catalysts.Although all the binary metal oxides studied showed improved activity compared to IrO2, the catalytic activity of Ir0.7Ru0.3O2 was found to be significantly better than the commercial catalyst: it was over 5 times more active than the ‘state-of-art’ commercial IrO2 catalyst. Ir-Pd mixed oxides also proved to be highly efficient as anode catalysts for SPE electrolysers.