Advanced Materials for PEM-Based Fuel Cell Systems

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Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are quickly becoming attractive alternative energy sources for transportation, stationary power, and small electronics due to the increasing cost and environmental hazards of traditional fossil fuels. Two main classes of PEMFCs include hydrogen/air or hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). The current benchmark membrane for both types of PEMFCs is Nafion, a perfluorinated sulfonated copolymer made by DuPont. Nafion copolymers exhibit good thermal and chemical stability, as well as very high proton conductivity under hydrated conditions at temperatures below 80 °C. However, application of these membranes is limited due to their ... continued below

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McGrath, James E. October 26, 2005.

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Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are quickly becoming attractive alternative energy sources for transportation, stationary power, and small electronics due to the increasing cost and environmental hazards of traditional fossil fuels. Two main classes of PEMFCs include hydrogen/air or hydrogen/oxygen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). The current benchmark membrane for both types of PEMFCs is Nafion, a perfluorinated sulfonated copolymer made by DuPont. Nafion copolymers exhibit good thermal and chemical stability, as well as very high proton conductivity under hydrated conditions at temperatures below 80 °C. However, application of these membranes is limited due to their high methanol permeability and loss of conductivity at high temperatures and low relative humidities. These deficiencies have led to the search for improved materials for proton exchange membranes. Potential PEMs should have good thermal, hydrolytic, and oxidative stability, high proton conductivity, selective permeability, and mechanical durability over long periods of time. Poly(arylene ether)s, polyimides, polybenzimidazoles, and polyphenylenes are among the most widely investigated candidates for PEMs. Poly(arylene ether)s are a promising class of proton exchange membranes due to their excellent thermal and chemical stability and high glass transition temperatures. High proton conductivity can be achieved through post-sulfonation of poly(arylene ether) materials, but this most often results in very high water sorption or even water solubility. Our research has shown that directly polymerized poly(arylene ether) copolymers show important advantages over traditional post-sulfonated systems and also address the concerns with Nafion membranes. These properties were evaluated and correlated with morphology, structure-property relationships, and states of water in the membranes. Further improvements in properties were achieved through incorporation of inorganic fillers, such as phosphotungstic acid and zirconium hydrogen phosphate. Block copolymers were also studied due to the possibility to achieve a desired combination of homopolymer properties as well as the unique morphologies that are possible with block copolymers. Bezoyl substituted poly(p-phenylene) blocks were combined with poly(arylene ether) blocks to merge the structural rigidity of the poly(p-phenylene) with the ductility and high protonic conductivity of the poly(arylene ether)s. As evidenced by our many refereed publications and preprints, the research that we have conducted over the past several years has made a valuable and significant contribution to the literature and to the state of understanding of proton exchange membranes. Our early efforts at scale-up have suggested that the directly polymerized disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) copolymers are commercially viable alternatives for proton exchange membranes. A new process for bipolar plates was developed and is described. An important single domain PEMFC model was developed and is documented in this final report.

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  • Report No.: DOE/GO/11086-1
  • Grant Number: FC36-01GO11086
  • DOI: 10.2172/875994 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 875994
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc875256

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  • October 26, 2005

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  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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McGrath, James E. Advanced Materials for PEM-Based Fuel Cell Systems, report, October 26, 2005; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc875256/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.