Pt/TiO2 as electrocatalyst was found to significantly increase the rate of the membrane chemical degradation in a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell. The increased degradation was proved to be due to TiOx (TiO2 or Ti4O7), which is widely recognized as a promising corrosion-resistant electrocatalyst support. The membrane degradation (thinning) appears to be preferentially in the side facing anode electrode. Migrated Ti species as a result of TiOx dissolution during fuel cell operation in an acidic environment was quantified by electron probe microanalysis (EPMA). Total fluorine inventory loss of the membrane strongly depends on the quantity of migrated Ti species (likely Ti3+ and/or Ti4+). The membrane chemical degradation induced by TiOx is proposed to be due to dissolved ionic Ti species reacting with H2O2 through a Fenton reaction. TiOx is determined to be inviable as electrocatalyst support for PEM fuel cells, and future research is suggested to be directed toward alternative oxides with similar corrosion-resistance.
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