(213f) Anion Exchange Membranes for Fuel Cell Applications Based on Advanced Cations

Authors: 
Herring, A. M., Colorado School of Mines
The potential of anion exchange membrane (AEM) fuel cells to provide inexpensive compact power from a wider variety of fuels than is possible with a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, has continued to drive the research interest in this area. Alkaline catalysis in fuel cells has been demonstrated with non-precious metal catalysts, and with a variety of fuels beyond H2 and methanol. Alkaline fuel cells (AFCs), based on aqueous solutions of KOH, have serious drawbacks associated with system complexity and carbonate formation. Anion exchange membrane (AEMs) fuel cells have a number of advantages over both PEM fuel cells and traditional AFCs; however, although anionic conductivity in AEMs can be comparable to PEMs the chemical stability of membrane attached cations in hydroxide is still not always sufficient for practical applications. Recently, it has been recognized that a number of advanced cations, may give AEMs the needed chemical stability. In some circumstances simple trimethyl benzyl ammonium cations are stable up to 60oC allowing us to being to study hydroxide and water transport in these systems. We use in-plane conductivity and multi-nuclear PFGSE to measure self-diffusion coefficients of the water and where possible, the ion, i.e. F-, carbonate and bicarbonate. Together with temperature and RH dependent SAXS we couple this information with the morphological changes in the materails.

By their nature these organic cations form dipoles, which have a tendency to interact, see Figure below for a trimethylbenzyl cation with bromide for illustrative purposes. For maximum ion transport the cation should be distributed along the polymer chain, however, cation clustering is a common phenomena. It occurs in phase separated diblock polymers when an attempt is made to raise the IEC, no net increase is observed in ionic conductivity above a certain IEC. In many other less structured polymers it occurs in the fully humidified state when the distributed disordered cations order in agglomerates at a disorder/order Td. This Td is often observed in the operating temperature range expected for a device, in DMA, DSC, and broadband electric spectroscopy. Interestingly, even though the SAXS clearly shows an agglomeration on the nano-scale, little difference is seen in the bulk conductivity with temperature. However, steric hindernce effects are expected to discourage aggregation, and may allow the cation to tune all properties of the AEM. As these phenomena are so prevalent in AEM materials the implications and science behind them are being investigated by us and will be discussed in this presentation. The implications of more complex cations proposed for stability in AEMs will be described.