Research Papers

Synthesis and Characterization of a Composite Membrane for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell

[+] Author and Article Information
Susanta K. Das1

Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integrations, Kettering University, 1700 West Third Avenue, Flint, MI 48504sdas@kettering.edu

Panini Kolavennu, K. J. Berry

Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integrations, Kettering University, 1700 West Third Avenue, Flint, MI 48504

J. Hedrick, Ali R. Zand

Department of Chemistry, Kettering University, 1700 West Third Avenue, Flint, MI 48504

L. Beholz

 Beholtztech Inc., 132 West First Street, Flint, MI 48502


Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 6(1), 011021 (Nov 26, 2008) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2971198 History: Received June 15, 2007; Revised October 26, 2007; Published November 26, 2008

A new proton exchange membrane (PEM) has been fabricated using a novel patented polymer structure modification technology. It has been shown that the new membrane has a higher proton transfer rate and lower resistance as compared to Nafion® . This paper discusses issues related to membrane fabrication and testing procedures. (i) A brief fabrication procedure of PEM is outlined. The fabrication technique used here separates the proton exchange and structural requirements of the PEM allowing greater flexibility in membrane design. The proton exchange material developed herein is a terpolymer composed of various ratios of acrylic acid, styrene, and vinylsulfonic acid. Following a patented polymer structure modification technology, these materials were bound to an ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene copolymer mesh that had been rendered adhesive by hydroxylation in a two-step water-borne process. (ii) A previously developed theoretical model is used to calculate the relative resistance and proton transfer rate. According to the model, a simple second order differential equation describes the entire process and established a relationship between the membrane resistance and the total time taken for a specific amount of protons to pass through it. Finally, (iii) a simple two-cell experimental procedure is developed to calculate the relative membrane resistance and proton transfer capacity. The results show that theoretical predictions are in excellent agreement with the experimental observations. The new membrane could transfer protons approximately 80% faster than Nafion® per unit area under the test conditions utilized. Membrane resistance is also 71% lower compared to Nafion® . These results suggest that there is now a new route of fabricating cost effective proton exchange membranes for fuel cell applications wherein one may focus more on the proton exchange capacity of the membrane allowing the structural properties of the membrane to be considered separately.

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

A brief schematic of the patented technology used in this study to manufacture the SAS PEM

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Figure 2

Schematic of concentration profiles of protons in the acid and water cells (15). Ca, Cw, Cam, and Cmw are the proton concentrations in the bulk of acid phase, water phase, acid and membrane interface, and membrane and water interface, respectively. R is the membrane resistance to proton flow. All the concentrations vary with time.

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Figure 3

Schematic of two-cell apparatus with PEM holder used to test proton exchange capacity. PEM membrane is indicated in purple color (meshed region).

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Figure 4

The change of pH in water cell as a function of time with different membranes obtained experimentally. Experimental data are used to fit linear regression line for each of the three distinct phases: induction phase, transfer phase, and equilibrium phase. Slope of the curves denotes the rate of change of pH in each phase.

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Figure 5

Comparison of proton concentration profile in water cell as a function of time with different membranes obtained using the experimental and theoretical results. Symbols represent theoretical model predictions, Eq. 3. Solid-, dashed-, and dotted-lines represent the experimental results for different membranes.




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