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Frontiers in Energy

ISSN 2095-1701 (Print)
ISSN 2095-1698 (Online)
Formerly Known as Frontiers of Energy and Power Engineering in China

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, Volume 11 Issue 3 Previous Issue   
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Clean energy technology: materials, processes and devices for electrochemical energy conversion and storage
Hong YANG, Junliang ZHANG, Baolian YI
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 233-235.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0501-7
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Design of efficient Pt-based electrocatalysts through characterization by X-ray absorption spectroscopy
Nebojsa S. MARINKOVIC, Kotaro SASAKI, Radoslav R. ADZIC
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 236-244.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0487-1
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A method is described to determine the internal structure of electrocatalyst nanoparticles by in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). The nondestructive spectroscopic technique typically utilizing synchrotron radiation as the source measures changes in the X-ray absorption coefficient as a function of energy. The bulk technique has found its use for materials characterization in all scientific areas, including nanomaterials. The analysis of the internal structure of nanoparticles reveals interatomic distances and coordination numbers for each element, and their values and mutual relations indicate whether the elements form a homogeneous or heterogeneous mixture. The core-shell heterogeneous structure in which certain elements are predominantly located in the core, and others form the encapsulating shell is of particular importance in catalysis and electrocatalysis because it may reduce the amount of precious metals in nanoparticles by replacing the atoms in the core of nanoparticles with more abundant and cheaper alternatives. The examples of nanoparticle structures designed in the laboratory and the approach to model efficient catalysts through systematic analysis of XAS data in electrochemical systems consisting of two and three metals are also demonstrated.

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A facile synthesis of high activity cube-like Pt/carbon composites for fuel cell application
Reza B. MOGHADDAM, Samaneh SHAHGALDI, Xianguo LI
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 245-253.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0492-4
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High activity catalyst with simple low-cost synthesis is essential for fuel cell commercialization. In this study, a facile procedure for the synthesis of cube-like Pt nanoparticle (PtCube) composites with high surface area carbon supports is developed by mixing precursor of Pt with carbon supports in organic batches, hence, one pot synthesis. The PtCube grow with Vulcan XC-72 or Ketjen black, respectively, and then treated for 5.5 h at 185ºC (i.e., PtCube5.5/V and PtCube5.5/K). The resulting particle sizes and shapes are similar; however, PtCube5.5/K has a larger electrochemical active surface area (EASA) and a remarkably better formic acid (FA) oxidation performance. Optimization of the PtCube/K composites leads to PtCube10/K that has been treated for 10 h at 185ºC. With a larger EASA, PtCube10/K is also more active in FA oxidation than the other PtCube/K composites. Impedance spectroscopy analysis of the temperature treated and as-prepared (i.e., untreated) PtCube/K composites indicates that PtCube10/K is less resistive, and has the highest limiting capacitance among the PtCube/K electrodes. Consistently, the voltammetric EASA is the largest for PtCube10/K. Furthermore, PtCube10/K is compared with two commercial Pt/C catalysts, Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo (TKK), and Johnson Matthey (JM)Pt/C catalysts. The TKK Pt/C has a higher EASA than PtCube10/K, as expected from their relative particles sizes (3–4 nm vs. 6–7 nm for PtCube10/K), however, PtCube10/K has a significantly better FA oxidation activity.

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Pt-Ni nanourchins as electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction
Qiaowan CHANG, Yuan XU, Shangqian ZHU, Fei XIAO, Minhua SHAO
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 254-259.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0493-3
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Pt-Ni bimetallic alloys with various nanostructures have shown excellent activity toward oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). The ORR activity is highly dependent on the structure of the catalyst. In this paper, Pt-Ni nanourchins were synthesized with an average size of 50 nm consisting of 10–20 nanorods and nanooctahedra by adjusting the synthesis condition. The formation of Pt-Ni nanourchins is mainly dependent on the adding order of solvents (benzyl ether, oleylamine and oleic acid). Pt-Ni nanourchins present a reasonable high ORR activity (0.81 A/mg at 0.9 V).

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Enhanced electrocatalytic performance of ultrathin PtNi alloy nanowires for oxygen reduction reaction
Hongjie ZHANG, Yachao ZENG, Longsheng CAO, Limeng YANG, Dahui FANG, Baolian YI, Zhigang SHAO
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 260-267.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0499-x
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In this paper, ultrathin Pt nanowires (Pt NWs) and PtNi alloy nanowires (PtNi NWs) supported on carbon were synthesized as electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Pt and PtNi NWs catalysts composed of interconnected nanoparticles were prepared by using a soft template method with CTAB as the surface active agent. The physical characterization and electrocatalytic performance of Pt NWs and PtNi NWs catalysts for ORR were investigated and the results were compared with the commercial Pt/C catalyst. The atomic ratio of Pt and Ni in PtNi alloy was approximately 3 to 1. The results show that after alloying with Ni, the binding energy of Pt shifts to higher values, indicating the change of its electronic structure, and that Pt3Ni NWs catalyst has a significantly higher electrocatalytic activity and good stability for ORR as compared to Pt NWs and even Pt/C catalyst. The enhanced electrocatalytic activity of Pt3Ni NWs catalyst is mainly resulted from the downshifted-band center of Pt caused by the interaction between Pt and Ni in the alloy, which facilitates the desorption of oxygen containing species (Oads or OHads) and the release of active sites.

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A review of Pt-based electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction
Changlin ZHANG, Xiaochen SHEN, Yanbo PAN, Zhenmeng PENG
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 268-285.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0466-6
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Development of active and durable electrocatalyst for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) remains one challenge for the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) technology. Pt-based nanomaterials show the greatest promise as electrocatalyst for this reaction among all current catalytic structures. This review focuses on Pt-based ORR catalyst material development and covers the past achievements, current research status and perspectives in this research field. In particular, several important categories of Pt-based catalytic structures and the research advances are summarized. Key factors affecting the catalyst activity and durability are discussed. An outlook of future research direction of ORR catalyst research is provided.

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Current challenge and perspective of PGM-free cathode catalysts for PEM fuel cells
Gang WU
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 286-298.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0477-3
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To significantly reduce the cost of proton exchange membrane fuel cells, platinum-group metal (PGM)-free cathode catalysts are highly desirable. Current M-N-C (M: Fe, Co or Mn) catalysts are considered the most promising due to their encouraging performance. The challenge thus has been their stability under acidic conditions, which has hindered their use for any practical applications. In this review, based on the author’s research experience in the field for more than 10 years, current challenges and possible solutions to overcome these problems were discussed. The current Edisonian approach (i.e., trial and error) to developing PGM-free catalysts has been ineffective in achieving revolutionary breakthroughs. Novel synthesis techniques based on a more methodological approach will enable atomic control and allow us to achieve optimal electronic and geometric structures for active sites uniformly dispersed within the 3D architectures. Structural and chemical controlled precursors such as metal-organic frameworks are highly desirable for making catalysts with an increased density of active sites and strengthening local bonding structures among N, C and metals. Advanced electrochemical and physical characterization, such as electron microscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy should be combined with first principle density functional theory (DFT) calculations to fully elucidate the active site structures.

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Highly active and durable Pd-Cu catalysts for oxygen reduction in alkaline exchange membrane fuel cells
Xiong PENG, Travis J. OMASTA, Justin M. ROLLER, William E. MUSTAIN
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 299-309.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0495-1
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A Pd-Cu catalyst, with primary B2-type phase, supported by VulcanXC-7R carbon was synthesized via a solvothermal method. The catalysts were physically and electrochemically characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and both cyclic and linear sweep voltammetry using a rotating disk electrode (RDE). During the RDE testing, the half-wave potential of the Pd-Cu/Vulcan catalyst was 50 mV higher compared to that of commercial Pt/C catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline media. The Pd-Cu/Vulcan exhibited a specific activity of 1.27 mA/cm2 and a mass activity of 0.59 A/mgPd at 0.9 V, which were 4 and 3 times greater than that of the commercial Pt/C catalyst, respectively. The Pd-Cu/Vulcan catalyst also showed higherin-situalkaline exchange membrane fuel cell (AEMFC) performance, with operating power densities of 1100 MW/cm2 operating on H2/O2 and 700 MW/cm2 operating on H2/Air (CO2-free), which were markedly higher than those of the commercial Pt/C. The Pd-Cu/Vulcan catalyst also exhibited high stability during a short-term,in-situAEMFC durability test, with only around 11% performance loss after 30 hours of operation, an improvement over most AEMFCs reported in the literature to date.

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Nitrogen-doped carbon black supported Pd nanoparticles as an effective catalyst for formic acid electro-oxidation reaction
Na SUN, Minglei WANG, Jinfa CHANG, Junjie GE, Wei XING, Guangjie SHAO
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 310-317.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0491-5
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Pd nanoparticles supported on nitrogen doped carbon black (Vulcan XC-72R) with two different levels of doping were prepared by the microwave-assisted ethylene glycol reduction process and used as catalyst for the formic acid electro-oxidation (FAEO). The results indicate that the different nitrogen doping contents in Pd/N-C catalysts have a significant effect on the performance of FAEO. A higher N content facilitates the uniform dispersion of Pd nanoparticles on carbon black with narrow particle size distribution. Furthermore, the electrochemical results show that the catalyst with a higher N-doping content possesses a higher catalytic activity and a long-term stability for FAEO. The peak current density of the Pd/N-C (high) catalyst is 1.27 and 2.31 times that of the Pd/N-C (low) and homemade Pd/C-H catalyst. The present paper may provide a simple method for preparation of high-performance anode catalyst for direct formic acid fuel cells (DFAFCs).

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Failure mode investigation of fuel cell for vehicle application
Zhongjun HOU, Renfang WANG, Keyong WANG, Weiyu SHI, Danming XING, Hongchun JIANG
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 318-325.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0488-0
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The durability of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) has been posing a key technical challenge to commercial spread of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). To improve the durability, it is necessary to optimize the fuel cell system (FCS) design against failure modes. The fuel cell durability research method at FCS scale was exhibited, and the failure modes of fuel cell were experimentally investigated in this paper. It is found that the fuel cell dry operation, start/stop cycle and gas diffusion layer (GDL) flooding are typical failure modes of fuel cells. After the modifications against the failure modes, the durability of FCSs is improved to over 3000 h step by step.

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Accelerated life-time test of MEA durability under vehicle operating conditions in PEM fuel cell
Tian TIAN, Jianjun TANG, Wei GUO, Mu PAN
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 326-333.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0489-z
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In this paper, a novel accelerated test method was proposed to analyze the durability of MEA, considering the actual operation of the fuel cell vehicle. The proposed method includes 7 working conditions: open circuit voltage (OCV), idling, rated output, overload, idling-rated cycle, idling-overload cycle, and OCV-idling cycle. The experimental results indicate that the proposed method can effectively destroy the MEA in a short time (165 h). Moreover, the degradation mechanism of MEA was analyzed by measuring the polarization curve, CV, SEM and TEM. This paper may provide a new research direction for improving the durability of fuel cell.

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Review of characterization and modeling of polymer electrolyte fuel cell catalyst layer: The blessing and curse of ionomer
Jun HUANG, Zhe LI, Jianbo ZHANG
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 334-364.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0490-6
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Ionomer impregnation represents a milestone in the evolution of polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) catalyst layers. Ionomer acts as the binder, facilitates proton transport, and thereby drastically improves catalyst utilization and effectiveness. However, advanced morphological and functional characterizations have revealed that up to 60% of Pt nanoparticles can be trapped in the micropores of carbon support particles. Ionomer clusters and oxygen molecules can hardly enter into micropores, leading to low Pt utilization and effectiveness. Moreover, the ionomer thin-films covering Pt nanoparticles can cause significant mass transport loss especially at high current densities. Ionomer-free ultra-thin catalyst layers (UTCLs) emerge as a promising alternative to reduce Pt loading by improving catalyst utilization and effectiveness, while theoretical issues such as the proton conduction mechanism remain puzzling and practical issues such as the rather narrow operation window remain unsettled. At present, the development of PEFC catalyst layer has come to a crossroads: staying ionomer-impregnated or going ionomer-free. It is always beneficial to look back into the past when coming to a crossroads. This paper addresses the characterization and modeling of both the conventional ionomer-impregnated catalyst layer and the emerging ionomer-free UTCLs, featuring advances in characterizing microscale distributions of Pt particles, ionomer, support particles and unraveling their interactions; advances in fundamental understandings of proton conduction and flooding behaviors in ionomer-free UTCLs; advances in modeling of conventional catalyst layers and especially UTCLs; and discussions on high-impact research topics in characterizing and modeling of catalyst layers.

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Chemical composition and formation mechanisms in the cathode-electrolyte interface layer of lithium manganese oxide batteries from reactive force field (ReaxFF) based molecular dynamics
Sahithya REDDIVARI, Christian LASTOSKIE, Ruofei WU, Junliang ZHANG
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 365-373.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0500-8
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Lithium manganese oxide (LiMn2O4) is a principal cathode material for high power and high energy density electrochemical storage on account of its low cost, non-toxicity, and ease of preparation relative to other cathode materials. However, there are well-documented problems with capacity fade of lithium ion batteries containing LiMn2O4. Experimental observations indicate that the manganese content of the electrolyte increases as an electrochemical cell containing LiMn2O4 ages, suggesting that active material loss by dissolution of divalent manganese from the LiMn2O4 surface is the primary reason for reduced cell life in LiMn2O4 batteries. To improve the retention of manganese in the active material, it is key to understand the reactions that occur at the cathode surface. Although a thin layer of electrolyte decomposition products is known to form at the cathode surface, the speciation and reaction mechanisms of Mn2+ in this interface layer are not yet well understood.

To bridge this knowledge gap, reactive force field (ReaxFF) based molecular dynamics was applied to investigate the reactions occurring at the LiMn2O4 cathode surface and the mechanisms that lead to manganese dissolution. The ReaxFFMD simulations reveal that the cathode-electrolyte interface layer is composed of oxidation products of electrolyte solvent molecules including aldehydes, esters, alcohols, polycarbonates, and organic radicals. The oxidation reaction pathways for the electrolyte solvent molecules involve the formation of surface hydroxyl species that react with exposed manganese atoms on the cathode surface. The presence of hydrogen fluoride (HF) induces formation of inorganic metal fluorides and surface hydroxyl species. Reaction products predicted by ReaxFF-based MD are in agreement with experimentally identified cathode-electrolyte interface compounds. An overall cathode-electrolyte interface reaction scheme is proposed based on the molecular simulation results.

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Li4SiO4-coated LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4 as the high performance cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries
Shifeng YANG, Wenfeng REN, Jian CHEN
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 374-382.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0494-2
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The preparation of Li4SiO4-coated LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4 materials by sintering the SiO2-coated nickel-manganese oxides with lithium salts using abundant and low-cost sodium silicate as the silicon source was reported. The samples were characterized by X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. It was found that a uniform and complete SiO2 coating layer could be obtained at a suitable pH value of 10, which transformed to a good Li4SiO4 coating layer afterwards. When used as the cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries, the Li4SiO4-coated LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4 samples deliver a better electrochemical performance in terms of the discharge capacity, rate capability, and cycling stability than that of the pristine material. It can still deliver 111.1 mAh/g at 20 C after 300 cycles, with a retention ratio of 93.1% of the stable capacity, which is far beyond that of the pristine material (101.3 mAh/g, 85.6%).

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High purity Mn5O8nanoparticles with a high overpotential to gas evolution reactions for high voltage aqueous sodium-ion electrochemical storage
Xiaoqiang SHAN, Fenghua GUO, Wenqian XU, Xiaowei TENG
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 383-400.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0485-3
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Developing electrodes with high specific energy by using inexpensive manganese oxides is of great importance for aqueous electrochemical energy storage (EES) using non-Li charge carriers such as Na-or K-ions. However, the energy density of aqueous EES devices is generally limited by their narrow thermodynamic potential window (~1.23 V). In this paper, the synthesis of high purity layered Mn5O8 nanoparticles through solid state thermal treatment of Mn3O4 spinel nanoparticles, resulting in a chemical formula of [Mn2+2 ][Mn4+3 O82−], evidenced by Rietveld refinement of synchrotron-based X-ray diffraction, has been reported. The electro-kinetic analyses obtained from cyclic voltammetry measurements in half-cells have demonstrated that Mn5O8 electrode has a large overpotential (~ 0.6 V) towards gas evolution reactions, resulting in a stable potential window of 2.5 V in an aqueous electrolyte in half-cell measurements. Symmetric full-cells fabricated using Mn5O8 electrodes can be operated within a stable 3.0 V potential window for 5000 galvanostatic cycles, exhibiting a stable electrode capacity of about 103 mAh/g at a C-rate of 95 with nearly 100% coulombic efficiency and 96% energy efficiency.

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β-Nickel hydroxide cathode material for nano-suspension redox flow batteries
Yue LI, Cheng HE, Elena V. TIMOFEEVA, Yujia DING, Javier PARRONDO, Carlo SEGRE, Vijay RAMANI
Front. Energy. 2017, 11 (3): 401-409.   DOI: 10.1007/s11708-017-0496-0
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As part of an effort to build a prototype flow battery system using a nano-suspension containing β-Ni(OH)2 nanoparticles as the cathode material, nano-sized β-Ni(OH)2 particles with well-controlled particle size and morphology were synthesized via the one-step precipitation of a NiCl2 precursor. The composition and morphology of the nanoparticles were characterized by scanning electronic microscopy (SEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). The XRD patterns confirmed that β-Ni(OH)2 was successfully synthesized, while SEM results showed that the particle sizes range from 70 to 150 nm. To ensure that Ni(OH)2 could be employed in the nano-suspension flow battery, the electrochemical performance of the synthesized β-Ni(OH)2 was initially tested in pouch cells through charge/discharge cycling. The phase transformations occurring during charge/discharge were investigated usingin-situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy to obtain the shift in the oxidation state of Ni (X-ray adsorption near edge structure, XANES) and the distances between Ni and surrounding atoms in charged and discharged states (extended X-ray absorption fine structure, EXAFS). XANES results indicated that the electrode in the discharged state was a mixture of phases because the edge position did not shift back completely. XAFS results further proved that the discharge capacity was provided by β-NiOOH and the ratio between β-Ni(OH)2 and g-NiOOH in the electrode in the discharged state was 71:29. Preliminary nano-suspension tests in a lab-scale cell were conducted to understand the behavior of the nano-suspension during charge/discharge cycling and to optimize the operating conditions.

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16 articles