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Keywords:

  • STEM;
  • EELS;
  • radiation damage;
  • catalyst layer;
  • PEMFC

Summary

Electron microscopy is an essential tool for the evaluation of microstructure and properties of the catalyst layer (CL) of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). However, electron microscopy has one unavoidable drawback, which is radiation damage. Samples suffer temporary or permanent change of the surface or bulk structure under radiation damage, which can cause ambiguity in the characterization of the sample. To better understand the mechanism of radiation damage of CL samples and to be able to separate the morphological features intrinsic to the material from the consequences of electron radiation damage, a series of experiments based on high-angle annular dark-field–scanning transmission scanning microscope (HAADF-STEM), energy filtering transmission scanning microscope (EFTEM), and electron energy loss spectrum (EELS) are conducted. It is observed that for thin samples (0.3–1 times λ), increasing the incident beam energy can mitigate the radiation damage. Platinum nanoparticles in the CL sample facilitate the radiation damage. The radiation damage of the catalyst sample starts from the interface of Pt/C or defective thin edge and primarily occurs in the form of mass loss accompanied by atomic displacement and edge curl. These results provide important insights on the mechanism of CL radiation damage. Possible strategies of mitigating the radiation damage are provided. SCANNING 36:338–346, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.