Research Papers

Polarization and Electrocatalyst Selection for Polybenzimidazole Direct Methanol Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Brenda L. García-Díaz

Savannah River National Laboratory,
Aiken, SC 29808
e-mail: Brenda.Garcia-Diaz@srnl.doe.gov

Héctor R. Colón-Mercado, Kevin Herrington, Elise B. Fox

Savannah River National Laboratory,
Aiken, SC 29808

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF FUEL CELL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received February 8, 2013; final manuscript received August 12, 2013; published online December 27, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Umberto Desideri.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 11(3), 031001 (Dec 27, 2013) (5 pages) Paper No: FC-13-1021; doi: 10.1115/1.4025523 History: Received February 08, 2013; Revised August 12, 2013

High temperature direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) using polybenzimidazole (PBI) membranes could improve the energy density of portable power sources. This study examines the polarization of vapor phase PBI DMFCs constructed with commercial membranes manufactured by a sol-gel method. The polarization of the high temperature DMFCs is compared to similar low temperature membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) using Nafion® membranes. The results showed that the cathode of the PBI DMFC had higher kinetic losses that are likely due to phosphate poisoning of the Pt electrocatalyst. At the tested conditions, the membrane conductivity of the PBI MEAs was comparable to the Nafion® MEA even with no humidification. Higher cell temperatures significantly improved PBI DMFC performance for Pt electrocatalyst electrodes. In full cell tests, the PBI DMFC MEAs had higher performance than Nafion® MEAs with similar catalyst loadings. The Pt and PtRu catalysts were tested for methanol oxidation and oxygen reduction activity by a rotating disk electrode (RDE) under 0.5 M H2SO4 and 0.5 M H3PO4. The combination of the polarization and RDE results for the PBI and Nafion® DMFCs suggest that Pt is a more active electrocatalyst for methanol oxidation in PBI than in Nafion®.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Linear sweep voltammograms of PtRu/C in H2SO4 and H3PO4 with and without methanol

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Fig. 4

Linear sweep voltammograms of Pt/C in H2SO4 and H3PO4 with and without methanol

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Fig. 3

The CV in the presence of methanol for the Pt and PtRu catalysts in H2SO4 (top) and H3PO4 (bottom)

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Fig. 2

Comparison of commercial Nafion® and PBI DMFC fuel cell polarizations for MEAs tested under similar conditions as in Fig. 1, except the anode feed was switched to 5 M methanol. The inset shows the mass activity polarization of the DMFC test.

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Fig. 1

H2/air cathode polarization curves for commercial Nafion® 211 MEA (ion power, 0.3/0.3 mg/cm2 Pt (A/C)) and Celtec®-P1000 (BASF, 0.75/1.0 mg/cm2 Pt (A/C)) membranes tested at 60 °C with 100% RH and tested at 140 °C with 0% RH, respectively. The inset shows the mass activity polarization of the H2/air test.




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