Interfacial engineering via laser ablation for high-performing PEM water electrolysis
A rationalized interfacial design strategy was applied to tailor the porous transport layer (PTL)-catalyst layer (CL) contact and the PTL bulk-phase architecture. Particularly, at the PTL-CL interface, our results reveal that laser ablated sintered titanium power-based PTLs improve electrolyzer performance at both the H2NEW Consortium baseline catalyst loading of 0.4 mgIr·cm−2 as well as at the ultra-low catalyst loading of 0.055 mgIr·cm−2. Under ultra-low catalyst loadings, the laser ablated PTL demonstrates maximum reduction of 230 mV compared to the commercial PTL at 4 A·cm−2, and reduces by 68 mV at 3.2 A·cm−2 under H2NEW baseline loading. Laser ablation alters the titanium phase at the interface, so it forms more uniform structure like a microporous layer or a backing layer, leading to an increase in the surface area in contact with the catalyst layer while preventing the membrane from deforming into the PTL. Moreover, we reveal that bulk-phase architecture modification of the PTL by ablating patterned pores at the flow field-PTL interface improves mass transport without sacrificing contact at the CL-PTL interface. Overall, laser ablation of the PTL is an effective method to customize interfacial design to enhance proton exchange membrane electrolyzer performance.