'n Vergelykende studie tussen Pt en Pd vir die elektro-oksidasie van waterige SO? asook ander model elektrochemiese reaksies
The pressure on clean and sustainable energy supplies is increasing. In this regard energy conversion by electrochemical processes plays a major role, for both fuel cell reactions and electrolysis reactions. The sulphur dioxide oxidation reaction (SOR) is a common reaction found in the Hybrid Sulphur Cycle (HyS) and the HyS is a way to produce large-scale hydrogen (H2). The problem with the use of the HyS and fuel cells is the cost involved as large amounts of Pt are required for effective operation. The aim of the study was to determine whether there was an alternative catalyst which was more efficient and cost-effective than Pt. The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), the ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR) and SOR were studied by means of different electrochemical techniques (cyclovoltammetry (CV), linear polarization (LP) and rotating disk electrode (RDE)) on polycrystalline platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd). The SRR and EOR are common reactions occurring at the cathode and anode, respectively, in fuel cells and these reactions have been investigated extensively. The reason for studying the reactions was as a preparation for the SOR. This study compared polycrystalline Pt and Pd for the different reactions, with the main focus on the SOR as Pd is considerably cheaper than Pt, and for the SOR polycrystalline Pd has by no means been investigated intensively. Polycrystalline Pt and Pd were compared by different electrochemical techniques and analyses. The Koutecky-Levich and Levich analyses were used to (i) calculate the number of e- involved in the relevant reaction, (ii) to determine whether the reaction was mass transfer controlled at high overpotentials and (iii) whether the reaction mechanism changed with potential. Next the kinetic current density ( k) was calculated from Koutecky-Levich analyses, which was further used for Tafel slope analyses. If it was not possible to carry out the analyses, the activation energy (Ea) was used to determine the electrocatalytic activity of the catalyst. The electrocatalytic activity was also determined by comparing onset potentials (Es), peak potentials (Ep) and limited/maximum current density ( b/ p) of each catalyst. This study was only a preliminary study for the SOR and therefore, further studies are certainly required. It seemed Pd shows better electrocatalytic activity than Pt for the SRR in an alkaline electrolyte because of similar Es, but Pd produced a higher cathodic current density. Pt showed a lower Es than Pd for the SRR in an acid electrolyte, but Pd delivered a higher cathodic current density. This, therefore, means that the SRR in an acid electrolyte is kinetically more favourable on Pd than on Pt. For the EOR better electrocatalytic activity was obtained with Pd than with Pt in an alkaline electrolyte due to higher current densities at lower potentials and Pd showed lower Ea values than Pt in the potential range normally used for fuel cells. Pd was inactive for EOR in an acid electrolyte, while a reaction occurred on Pt. A possible reason for this observation may be due to the H2 absorbing strongly on Pd thus blocking the active positions on the electrode surfaces, preventing further reaction. Pd showed higher electrocatalytic activity for the SOR due to lower Es and higher current densities at low potentials. From the RDE studies it was established that the SRR in an alkaline electrolyte on polycrystalline Pt and Pd was mass transfer controlled at low potentials (high overpotentials), but the SRR in an acid electrolyte was only mass transfer controlled on Pt. The SOR was not mass transfer controlled on polycrystalline Pt and Pd at high potentials (high overpotentials). These assumptions were confirmed by Levich analysis. Using Koutecky-Levich analysis, it was determined that the reaction mechanism on polycrystalline Pt and Pd changed with potential for SRR in an alkaline electrolyte and the SOR. For the SRR in an acid electrolyte the reaction mechanism remained constant with changes in potential on polycrystalline Pd, but the reaction mechanism on polycrystalline Pt changed with potential. These assumptions were confirmed by the number of e-, calculated using Koutecky-Levich analyses. Levich and Koutecky-Levich analyses were not performed for EOR as an increase in rotation speed did not produce an increase in current density. Tafel slope analyses were conducted by making use of overpotentials and k, where possible. As in the case of ethanol, it was not possible to execute Koutecky-Levich analyses and, therefore, it was not possible to perform Tafel slope analyses using k. Tafel slope analyses for the EOR was therefore performed with normal current densities at 0 rotations per minute (rpm). The reaction mechanisms on Pt and Pd for the SRR in alkaline and acidic electrolytes differed due to different Tafel slopes. Pt and Pd displayed similar Tafel slopes for the EOR in alkaline electrolyte, thus suggesting that the reaction mechanisms on Pt and Pd were the same. For the SOR it seemed that the reaction mechanism on Pt and Pd were similar because of similar Tafel slopes. This was only a preliminary and comparative study for polycrystalline Pt and Pd, and the reaction mechanism was not further studied by means of spectroscopic techniques.