Analysis of voltage losses in PEM water electrolyzers with low platinum group metal loadings

Maximilian Bernt, Armin Siebel, Hubert A. Gasteiger

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238 Scopus citations


In this study, the influence of catalyst loading on the performance of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) water electrolyzer is investigated (Nafion 212 membrane; IrO2/TiO2 (anode) and Pt/C (cathode)). Due to the fast kinetics of the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) on platinum (Pt), the Pt loading on the cathode can be reduced from 0.30 mgPt cm−2 to 0.025 mgPt cm−2 without any negative effect on performance. On the anode, the iridium (Ir) loading was varied between 0.20–5.41 mgIr cm−2 and an optimum in performance at operational current densities (≥1 A cm−2) was found for 1–2 mgIr cm−2. At higher Ir loadings, the performance decreases at high current densities due to insufficient water transport through the catalyst layer whereas at Ir loadings <0.5 mgIr cm2 the catalyst layer becomes inhomogeneous, which leads to a lower electrochemically active area and catalyst utilization, resulting in a significant decrease of performance. To investigate the potential for a large-scale application of PEM water electrolysis, the Ir-specific power density (gIr kW−1) for membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with different catalyst loadings is analyzed as a function of voltage efficiency, and the consequences regarding catalyst material requirements are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F305-F314
JournalJournal of the Electrochemical Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018


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