Combinatorial Electrochemistry: A Highly Parallel, Optical Screening Method for Discovery of Better Electrocatalysts

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Science  12 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5370, pp. 1735-1737
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5370.1735

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Combinatorial screening of electrochemical catalysts by current-voltage methods can be unwieldy for large sample sizes. By converting the ions generated in an electrochemical half-cell reaction to a fluorescence signal, the most active compositions in a large electrode array have been identified. A fluorescent acid-base indicator was used to image high concentrations of hydrogen ions, which were generated in the electrooxidation of methanol. A 645-member electrode array containing five elements (platinum, ruthenium, osmium, iridium, and rhodium), 80 binary, 280 ternary, and 280 quaternary combinations was screened to identify the most active regions of phase space. Subsequent “zoom” screens pinpointed several very active compositions, some in ternary and quaternary regions that were bounded by rather inactive binaries. The best catalyst, platinum(44)/ruthenium(41)/osmium(10)/iridium(5) (numbers in parentheses are atomic percent), was significantly more active than platinum(50)/ruthenium(50) in a direct methanol fuel cell operating at 60°C, even though the latter catalyst had about twice the surface area of the former.

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