Sulfated zirconia is an inorganic solid superacid having sulfate groups covalently bonded to its surface. In this work, sulfated zirconia is synthesized by a solvent-free method to obtain it in the nanoparticle form. This nanostructured sulfated zirconia has been evaluated in terms of (i) chemical stability to hydrolysis and to hydrogen peroxide by thermogravimetric analysis, and (ii) influences on Pt catalyst activity by cyclic voltammetry using sulfated-zirconia dispersion as a supporting electrolyte solution. The results demonstrate that our sulfated zirconia is stable almost perfectly to hydrolysis but partly decomposed by a Fenton reagent containing hydrogen peroxide and Fe2+. In addition, we show that oxygen reduction activity of Pt catalyst in a sulfated-zirconia dispersion is comparatively high (specific activity at 0.9 V vs. RHE, i0.9: ca. 17 μA cm-2) compared to that in a 0.5 M sulfuric acid solution (i0.9: ca. 15 μA cm-2). Finally, we demonstrate that sulfated zirconia does not influence hydrogen oxidation reaction. These results lead us to conclude that sulfated zirconia is a promising proton conductor for fuel cells.
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