The optimisation of alkaline membrane fuel cell electrodes containing anion-exchange powder ionomers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Prof Varcoe's group (Department of Chemistry, University of Surrey) has pioneered the use of anion-exchange polymer electrolytes in alkaline membrane fuel cells (targeted to minimise the use of precious metal catalysts in fuel cell electrodes). These fuel cells have potential application in the stationary back-up power and off-grid electricity generation sectors. In the last two years, there have been large breakthroughs in the optimisation of anion-exchange membranes [DOI 10.1039/C8TA04783A]. However, to date, there has been less work on the optimisation of the anion-exchange powder ionomers that are used to bind the catalysts to the electrodes.

The aim of Mr Salam's PhD project is to investigate different electrode configurations to maximise alkaline membrane fuel cell performances.

Objectives:
1. To establish benchmark fuel cell performances with the use of the current state-of-the-art materials and electrode configurations;
2. To investigate the differences in the performances of fuel cell electrodes fabricated using different types of carbon paper electrodes with different levels of wetproofing (Teflon contents);
3. To investigate the differences in the performances of fuel cell electrodes containing anion-exchange ionomer powders of differing particle sizes and shapes (ground/milled using different methods);
4. To investigate the differences in the performances of fuel cell electrodes containing anion-exchange ionomer powders made from different precursors;
5. To investigate the differences in the performances of fuel cell electrodes containing the down-selected power/milling combination and different electrocatalysts (the above objectives used commercial benchmark platinum-based fuel cell electrocatalysts).

Methodology:
1.Fabricate standard anion-exchange membranes and different anion-exchange powder ionomers;
2.Characterise the above materials using standard published techniques (ion-exchange capacity, spectroscopic characterisation, conductivity, water uptakes);
3.Fabricate electrodes containing the anion-exchange powder ionomers for testing in single-cell alkaline membrane fuel cells (alongside the standard membranes).
4.If time permits, conduct some in situ durability studies of an optimised membrane-electrode assembly (this may be in collaboration with other US or EU groups).

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509772/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2021
2116997 Studentship EP/N509772/1 23/09/2018 28/02/2022 IHTASHAM SALAM
EP/R513350/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2116997 Studentship EP/R513350/1 23/09/2018 28/02/2022 IHTASHAM SALAM
 
Description The membrane electrode assembly (MEA) which forms the main component of fuel cells are made of various materials. One of these is an anion exchange ionomer, this is a polymer dispersed in the catalyst region of the electrode in the MEA. My work involved milling this at different stages of its route of synthesis and also using different techniques and durations. Although work is still in progress we found milling it at the final stage of synthesis is optimal and milling in liquid nitrogen is also best for homogenous particle size, We have yet to test these ionomers in a fuel cell device.
Exploitation Route Many people in the research field of fuel cells use ionomers in the catalyst region, however not a lot of research has gone into the preparation of the ionomer in terms of milling it. After my project is completed, fuel cell research groups, especially alkaline fuel cell research groups may alter their milling method for their ionomers.
Sectors Electronics

 
Description The optimisation of alkaline membrane fuel cell electrodes containing anion-exchange powder ionomers
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2116997 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 09/2021
 
Title Chemometrics software 
Description This tool assists in analysis of minute variations of spectral acquisitions from instruments such as Raman spectroscopy or FT-IR to distinguish differences such as crystallinity, amorphousness and possibly degradation. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This will be visible in my final thesis. This method is already being used by various research groups. 
 
Description ICCOM ROYAL SOCIETY GRANT 
Organisation Institute for the Chemistry of OrganoMetallic Compounds
Country Italy 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I and my group have contributed to two research papers as well as training an exchange student from iccom on our methods of fuel cell testing.
Collaborator Contribution They contributed to two research papers and trained me on their fuel cell testing methods which included alcohol fuel cell testing.
Impact A student exchange program which I was a part of as well as papers: Miller, Hamish A., et al. "Integration of a Pd-CeO2/C Anode with Pt and Pt-Free Cathode Catalysts in High Power Density Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells." ACS Applied Energy Materials 3.10 (2020): 10209-10214. Ren, Rong, et al. "Reshaping the Cathodic Catalyst Layer for Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells: From Heterogeneous Catalysis to Homogeneous Catalysis." Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2020).
Start Year 2017