AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Influence of water and membrane microstructure on the transport properties of proton exchange membrane fuel cells

by Ana Rosa Siu

Institution: Simon Fraser University
Year: 2007
Record ID: 1811204
Full text PDF: http://summit.sfu.ca/item/2623


Proton transport in proton exchange membranes (PEMs) depends on interaction between water and acid groups covalently bound to the polymer. Although the presence of water is important in maintaining the PEM’s functions, a thorough understanding of this topic is still lacking. The objective of this work is to provide a better understanding of how the nature water, confined to ionic domains of the polymer, influences the membrane’s ability to transport protons, methanol and water. Understanding this topic will facilitate development of new materials with favorable transport properties for fuel cells use. Five classes of polymer membranes were used in this work: polyacrylonitrile-graft-poly(styrenesulfonic) acid (PAN-g-macPSSA); poly(vinylidene difluoride) irradiation-graft-poly(styrenesulfonic) acid (PVDF-g-PSSA); poly(ethylenetetrafluoroethylene) irradiation-graft- poly(styrenesulfonic) acid (ETFE-g-PSSA); PVDF-g-PSSA with hydroxyethylmethacrylate (HEMA); and perfluorosulfonic acid membrane (Nafion). The nature of water within the polymers (freezable versus non-freezable states) was measured by systematically freezing samples, and observing the temperature at which water freezes and the amount of heat released in the process. Freezing water-swollen membranes resulted in a 4-fold decrease in the proton conductivity of the PEM. Activation energies of prot on transport before and after freezing were ~ 0.15 eV and 0.5 eV, consistent with proton transport through liquid water and bound water, respectively. Reducing the content of water in membrane samples decreased the amount of freezable and non-freezable water. Calorimetric measurements of membranes in various degrees of hydration showed that water molecules became non-freezable when ƒÜ (water molecules per sulfonic acid group) was less than ~14. Proton conduction through membranes containing only non-freezable water was demonstrated to be feasible. Diffusion experiments showed that the permeability of methanol decreased when the content of free water in the membranes decreased. Variation in permeability trends observed for the different polymer classes of the same content of free water was explained on the basis of tortuosity and interaction of methanol within the ionic network. Finally, a novel set of polymers containing non-ionic hydrophilic segments were examined for enhanced water transport in order to see if such domains might offset the flux of water due to electro-osmosis.