Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Synthetic polymers enable cheap, efficient, durable alkaline fuel cells

Date:
August 7, 2013
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
A new cost-effective polymer membrane can decrease the cost of alkaline batteries and fuel cells by allowing the replacement of expensive platinum catalysts without sacrificing important aspects of performance.

A membrane electrode assembly being inserted into a fuel cell testing stand. By creating several variations of membranes and studying them under similar conditions, the research team can predict the most optimal structure in an active and stable fuel cell.
Credit: Patrick Mansell

A new cost-effective polymer membrane can decrease the cost of alkaline batteries and fuel cells by allowing the replacement of expensive platinum catalysts without sacrificing important aspects of performance, according to Penn State researchers.

"We have tried to break this paradigm of tradeoffs in materials (by improving) both the stability and the conductivity of this membrane at the same time, and that is what we were able to do with this unique polymeric materials design," said Michael Hickner, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

In solid-state alkaline fuel cells, anion exchange membranes conduct negative charges between the device's cathode and anode -- the negative and positive connections of the cell -- to create useable electric power. Most fuel cells currently use membranes that require platinum-based catalysts that are effectivebut expensive.

Fuel cell membrane testing lab

Dr. Michael Hickner and his research team are conducting tests on membrane electrode assembly fuel cells in their Reber Building laboratory on Penn State's University Park campus.

Hickner's new polymer is a unique anion exchange membrane -- a new type offuel cell and battery membrane -- that allows the use of much more cost-efficient non-precious metal catalysts and does not compromise either durability or efficiency like previous anion exchange membranes.

"What we're really doing here is providing alternatives, possible choices, new technology so that people who want to commercialize fuel cells can now choose between the old paradigm and new possibilities with anion exchange membranes," Hickner said.

Creating this alternative took some intuition and good fortune. Inwork spearheaded by Nanwen Li, a postdoctoral researcher in materials science and engineering, Hickner's team created several variations of the membrane, each with slightly different chemical compositions. They then ran each variation under simulated conditions to predict which would be optimal in an actual fuel cell. The researchers report their findings in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Based on these initial tests, the group predicted that the membranes with long 16-carbon structures in their chemical makeup would provide the best efficiency and durability, as measured respectively by conductivity and long-term stability.

Chao-Yang Wang, William E. Diefenderfer Chair of Mechanical Engineering, and his team then tested each possibility in an operating fuel cell device. Yongjun Leng, a research associate in mechanical and nuclear engineering, measured the fuel cell's output and lifetime for each material variation.

Despite predictions, the membranes containing shorter 6-carbon structures proved to be much more durable and efficient after 60 hours of continuous operation.

"We were somewhat surprised…that what we thought was the best material in our lab testing wasn't necessarily the best material in the cell when it was evaluated over time," said Hickner, who added that researchers are still trying to understand why the 6-carbon variation has better long-term durability than the 16-carbon sample in the fuel cell by studying the operating conditions of the cell in detail.

Because the successful membrane was so much more effective than the initial lab studies predicted, researchers are now interested in accounting for the interactions that the membranes experienced while inside the cell.

"We have the fuel cell output -- so we have the fuel cell efficiency, the fuel cell life time -- but we don't have the molecular scale information in the fuel cell," Hickner said. "That's the next step, trying to figure out how these polymers are working in the fuel cell on a detailed level."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nanwen Li, Yongjun Leng, Michael A. Hickner, Chao-Yang Wang. Highly Stable, Anion Conductive, Comb-Shaped Copolymers for Alkaline Fuel Cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2013; 135 (27): 10124 DOI: 10.1021/ja403671u

Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Synthetic polymers enable cheap, efficient, durable alkaline fuel cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130807134239.htm>.
Penn State. (2013, August 7). Synthetic polymers enable cheap, efficient, durable alkaline fuel cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130807134239.htm
Penn State. "Synthetic polymers enable cheap, efficient, durable alkaline fuel cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130807134239.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Chinese Researchers Might Be Creating Supersonic Submarine

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Chinese researchers have expanded on Cold War-era tech and are closer to building a submarine that could reach the speed of sound. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Breakingviews: India Coal Strained by Supreme Court Ruling

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) An acute coal shortage is likely to be aggravated as India's supreme court declared government coal allocations illegal, says Breakingviews' Peter Thal Larsen. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins