A significant and long-standing problem in electrochemistry has demanded the need for gas diffusion electrodes that are "flood-proof" and "leak-proof" when operated with a liquid electrolyte. The absence of a solution to this problem has, effectively, made it unviable to use gas diffusion electrodes in many electrochemical manufacturing processes, especially as "gas-depolarized" counter electrodes with significantly decreased energy consumption. In this work, Gortex membranes (also known as expanded PTFE or ePTFE) have been studied as novel, leak-proof substrates for gas diffusion electrodes [PTFE = poly(tetrafluoroethylene)]. We report the fabrication, characterization, and operation of gas diffusion electrodes comprising finely pored Gortex overcoated with 10% Pt on Vulcan XC72, PTFE binder, and a fine Ni mesh as a current carrier. Capillary flow porometry indicated that the electrodes only flooded/leaked when the excess of pressure on their liquid-side over their gas-side was 5.7 atm. This is more than an order of magnitude greater than any previous gas diffusion electrode. The Gortex electrodes were tested as hydrogen- and oxygen-depolarized anodes and cathodes in an alkaline fuel cell in which the liquid electrolyte was pressurized to 0.5−1.5 atm above the gas pressures. Despite the record high electrolyte pressure, the electrodes, which had Pt loadings of only 0.075 mg Pt/cm2 , exhibited notable activity over 2 d of continuous, leakfree operation. Under the applied liquid pressure, the fuel cell also overcame all of the key technical challenges that have hindered the adoption of alkaline fuel cells to date. The high activity and unprecedented resistance to leaking/flooding exhibited by these electrodes, even when subjected to large liquid electrolyte overpressures under gas depolarization conditions, provide an important advance with far-reaching implications for electrochemical manufacturing.
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