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Niobium- and antimony-doped tin dioxide aerogels as new catalyst supports for PEM fuel cells

Abstract : In order to tackle the problem of low durability, tin dioxide was studied to replace carbon black as a catalyst support in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). SnO2 is a well-known n-type semi-conductor whose electronic conductivity can be improved by doping with hypervalent cations such as Nb5+ or Sb5+. In addition, as a catalyst support, this material has to develop a high specific surface area with an adequate mesoporous morphology to allow both good dispersion and activity of the catalyst (Pt). To this end, our objective was to develop doped SnO2 aerogels in order to gather in a same material both a high electronic conductivity and an adapted morphology. In this study, SnO2 xerogels and aerogels were successfully synthesized following an acid-catalyzed sol–gel route starting with metal alkoxides as precursors. Dried gels were calcined for 5 h at 600 °C in flowing air. The effect on both the structure and the morphology of the material resulting from doping with niobium or antimony was investigated by XRD, SEM, and nitrogen sorption. The electronic conductivity of pure and doped SnO2 materials was obtained from impedance spectroscopy and resistance measurements. Our materials showed a very interesting airy morphology adapted for the foreseen application: a reasonable specific surface area (80–90 m2/g) with a bimodal pore size distribution centered on around 25 and 45 nm. Moreover, all Sb-doped samples exhibited significant improvement in electronic conductivity. 5 at.% Sb-doped SnO2 even showed an electronic conductivity of 1 S/cm, very similar to that of Vulcan XC-72 (4 S/cm) and representing a 5 orders of magnitude increase compared to that of pure SnO2.
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Guillaume Ozouf, Christian Beauger. Niobium- and antimony-doped tin dioxide aerogels as new catalyst supports for PEM fuel cells. Journal of Materials Science, Springer Verlag, 2016, 51 (11), pp.5305-5320. ⟨10.1007/s10853-016-9833-7⟩. ⟨hal-01280119⟩

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