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Proton exchange membrane electrolysis sustained by water vapor

Spurgeon, Joshua M. and Lewis, Nathan S. (2011) Proton exchange membrane electrolysis sustained by water vapor. Energy and Environmental Science, 4 (8). pp. 2993-2998. ISSN 1754-5692. doi:10.1039/c1ee01203g.

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The current–voltage characteristics of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer constructed with an IrRuOx water oxidation catalyst and a Pt black water reduction catalyst, under operation with water vapor from a humidified carrier gas, have been investigated as a function of the gas flow rate, the relative humidity, and the presence of oxygen. The performance of the system with water vapor was also compared to the performance when the device was immersed in liquid water. With a humidified Ar(g) input stream at 20 °C, an electrolysis current density of 10 mA cm^(−2) was sustained at an applied voltage of ~ 1.6 V, with a current density of 20 mA cm^(−2) observed at ~ 1.7 V. In the system evaluated, at current densities >40 mA cm^(−2) the electrolysis of water vapor was limited by the mass flux of water to the PEM. At <40 mA cm^(−2), the electrolysis of water vapor supported a given current density at a lower applied bias than did the electrolysis of liquid water. The relative humidity of the input carrier gas strongly affected the current–voltage behavior, with lower electrolysis current density attributed to dehydration of the PEM at reduced humidity values. The results provide a proof-of-concept that, with sufficiently active catalysts, an efficient solar photoelectrolyzer could be operated only with water vapor as the feedstock, even at the low operating temperatures that may result in the absence of active heating. This approach therefore offers a route to avoid the light attenuation and mass transport limitations that are associated with bubble formation in these systems.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Spurgeon, Joshua M.0000-0002-2987-0865
Lewis, Nathan S.0000-0001-5245-0538
Additional Information:© 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry. Received 21st February 2011, Accepted 19th April 2011. First published on the web 02 Jun 2011. This work was performed by the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub that is supported through the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under Award Number DE-SC0004993. We acknowledge use of facilities supported by the Caltech Center for Science and Engineering of Materials, an NSF MRSEC, and the Caltech Center for Sustainable Energy Research.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Office of Science of the Department of Energy (DOE)DE-SC0004993
Caltech Center for the Science and Engineering of MaterialsUNSPECIFIED
Caltech Center for Sustainable Energy ResearchUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:8
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110815-074658754
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Official Citation:Proton exchange membrane electrolysis sustained by water vapor Joshua M. Spurgeon and Nathan S. Lewis Energy Environ. Sci., 2011, 4, 2993-2998 DOI: 10.1039/C1EE01203G
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:24842
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:15 Aug 2011 15:11
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 16:27

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