The catalytic activity and selectivity of Pt nanoparticles towards the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) were investigated as a function of the Pt catalyst distribution. By means of the sputtering deposition technique, it was possible to fabricate Pt catalysts with different loadings that consisted of dispersed 2–3 nm particles, nanoparticle agglomerates and extended particulate layers. The transition from dispersed nanoparticles to extended layers led to a decrease in the electrochemical surface area (ECSA, m2Pt gPt−1) and to a shift of the platinum oxide reduction peak to more positive potentials, which indicates a decrease in the adsorption energy for oxygenated species. The latter finding was correlated to the observed decrease in specific activity with the increasing ECSA, that is, in the case of isolated nanoparticles, the higher adsorption energy for oxygenated species causes a reduction in the specific activity towards the ORR as larger amounts of active sites are blocked compared to extended surfaces. The presented data of specific and mass activity versus ECSA were found to follow a “master curve” obtained by comparing normalised Pt activities from different studies. The transition from dispersed Pt nanoparticles to extended layers also influences the Pt selectivity. At a decreased interparticle distance, a significant increase in the H2O2 production was observed below 0.6 V versus the reversible hydrogen electrode, which indicates the important role of a H2O2 desorption–readsorption reaction mechanism during the ORR on Pt nanoparticles.
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