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A fluorine-free membrane for fuel cells

By Tetsuo Satoh |

Polymer-electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) are promising devices for clean power generation in automotive, stationary and portable applications. Up to now, the proton exchange membranes (PEMs) used in PEFCs have been based on perfluorosulfonic acid (PFSA) ionomers (for example, Nafion). However, several problems have limited the widespread adoption of PEFCs, including high gas permeability, low thermal stability, high production cost and environmental incompatibility. It is believed that fluorine-free PEMs can potentially address all of these issues, but so far, no alternative membranes have simultaneously met the criteria for both high performance (for example, proton conductivity) and durability (for example, mechanical and chemical stability). Now, researchers from the University of Yamanashi (Kofu City, www.yamanashi.ac.jp), with support from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO; Kawasaki, www.nedo.go.jp), may have found a PEM with the desired properties. The membrane is a random copolymer (diagram) of sulfonated polyphenylene (SPP) and quinquephenyl (QP). The newly designed SPP-QP PEM exhibits very high proton conductivity, excellent flexibility and a low gas permeability (nearly 15–20% that of…
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