Effect of Catalyst Ink and Formation Process on the Multiscale Structure of Catalyst Layers in PEM Fuel Cells
The structure of a catalyst layer (CL) significantly impacts the performance, durability, and cost of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and is influenced by the catalyst ink and the CL formation process. However, the relationship between the composition, formulation, and preparation of catalyst ink and the CL formation process and the CL structure is still not completely understood. This review, therefore, focuses on the effect of the composition, formulation, and preparation of catalyst ink and the CL formation process on the CL structure. The CL structure depends on the microstructure and macroscopic properties of catalyst ink, which are decided by catalyst, ionomer, or solvent(s) and their ratios, addition order, and dispersion. To form a well-defined CL, the catalyst ink, substrate, coating process, and drying process need to be well understood and optimized and match each other. To understand this relationship, promote the continuous and scalable production of membrane electrode assemblies, and guarantee the consistency of the CLs produced, further efforts need to be devoted to investigating the microstructure of catalyst ink (especially the catalyst ink with high solid content), the reversibility of the aged ink, and the drying process. Furthermore, except for the certain variables studied, the other manufacturing processes and conditions also require attention to avoid inconsistent conclusions.