Anion Conducting Ionomers for Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers

  • Ahlfield J
  • Huang G
  • Liu L
  • et al.
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The design of new anion exchange ionomers for use in electrochemical devices is a critical step in improvement of anionic fuel cells and electrolyzers. Although these materials share some targeted goals with anion exchange membranes (AEMs), there are several different property requirements. Since ionomers are used within electrode layers, they do not serve as a primary separator for fuel and air. Rather, they act as a transport facilitator in the electrode where a high degree of mass transport is required. In this study, a series of anionic ionomers is synthesized and tested in hybrid fuel cells and AEM electrolyzers. These ionomers are based on a series of materials which include block copolymer AEMs with alkyl tethers that have been modified to be used as anion conductors. The newly synthesized ionomers were tested in both fuel cell and electrolysis devices. In situ testing of these materials shows that lower molecular weight materials outperform their higher molecular weight counterparts. Additionally, the use of a block copolymer with the introduction of a hydrophobic spacer further increased device performance. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells have been developed and used in portable electronic devices and vehicle transportation. 1 However, the wide-scale commercialization of proton conducting membrane fuel cells is impeded by several factors including slug-gish oxygen reduction kinetics at the air-breathing cathode, high cost of the noble metal platinum catalyst, complex water management, and fuel crossover from the anode to the cathode through the PEM. Recently, anion exchange membrane (AEM) fuel cells have attracted attention. 2–10 The high pH environment of the AEM fuel cell mitigates many of the shortfalls encountered with PEM fuel cells including facile oxygen reduction kinetics, potential use of non-precious metal catalysts, and lower fuel crossover because of the opposite direction of the ion within the membrane. 11,12 However, the performance of AEM fuel cells is not as good as PEM fuel cells partly due to limitations of current AEM materials, including low ionic conductivity, high water uptake and poor stability of the membrane at high pH. 13,14




Ahlfield, J., Huang, G., Liu, L., Kaburagi, Y., Kim, Y., & Kohl, P. A. (2017). Anion Conducting Ionomers for Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers. Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 164(14), F1648–F1653.

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