Gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs) represent a fundamental element for the development of gaseous electrochemical cells like water electrolysis reactors and fuel cells.
Various technologies and materials are employed in order to obtain a conductive, stable and gas permeable structure. Among them, carbon-based structures such as carbon paper are widely used: their composition allows the diffusion of gaseous reagents and products and simultaneously does not permit the flooding of the gas-diffusion structure by aqueous electrolytes. However, the hydrophobicity of this material may represent a drawback to water-based electrode synthesis like galvanic deposition, and various chemical or thermal pre-treatments were developed in the last decades.
A new kind of pre-treatment based on electrical oxidation of the carbon paper surface is here described and evaluated. The electro-oxidative method allows a rapid and localized pre-treatment of the carbon paper, avoiding the use of highly reactive chemicals or long thermal treatments, reducing treatment wastes, time loss and electrical consumption.
Surface wettability of the carbon paper before and after pretreatment was compared by contact angle analysis.
Pre-treated and virgin carbon paper were subsequently electroplated from a copper deposition bath and deposition morphologies were compared, in order to establish the effect of the pre-treatment. Electroplated supports were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in order to analyze both micro and nanomorphology of the metallic structure.