A new class of fuel cells based on a newly discovered polymer-based material could bridge the gap between the operating temperature ranges of two existing types of polymer fuel cells.
This breakthrough has the potential to accelerate the commercialization of low-cost fuel cells for automotive and stationary applications.
A Los Alamos National Laboratory team collaborated with Yoong-Kee Choe at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan and Cy Fujimoto of Sandia National Laboratories on the project.
They discovered that fuel cells made from phosphate-quaternary ammonium ion-pair can be operated between 80°C and 200°C with and without water, enhancing the fuel cells usability in a range of conditions.
Los Alamos has been a leader in fuel-cell research since the 1970s.
Fuel cell technologies can significantly benefit the nation’s energy security, the environment and economy through reduced oil consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution.
The current research work supports the Laboratory’s missions related to energy security and materials for the future.
The research team found that a phosphate-quaternary ammonium ion-pair has much stronger interaction, which allows the transport of protons effectively even under water-condensing conditions.
The Los Alamos team collaborated with Fujimoto at Sandia to prepare quaternary ammonium functionalized polymers.
The prototype fuel cells made from the ion-pair-coordinated membrane demonstrated excellent fuel-cell performance and durability at 80-200°C, which is unattainable with existing fuel cell technology.
The research is published in the journal Nature Energy.