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Synthetic polymers enable cheap, efficient, durable alkaline fuel cells

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Posted August 8, 2013
This is an example membrane -- a cost-efficient and durable alternative for fuel cells consisting of two electrodes with a clear membrane sandwiched between them. Credit: Patrick Mansell

This is an example membrane — a cost-efficient and durable alternative for fuel cells consisting of two electrodes with a clear membrane sandwiched between them. Credit: Patrick Mansell

A new cost-effective polymer membrane can decrease the cost of alkaline batteries and fuel cells by allowing the replacement of expensive platinum catalysts without sacrificing important aspects of performance, according to Penn State researchers.

“We have tried to break this paradigm of tradeoffs in materials (by improving) both the stability and the conductivity of this membrane at the same time, and that is what we were able to do with this unique polymeric materials design,” said Michael Hickner, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

In solid-state alkaline fuel cells, anion exchange membranes conduct negative charges between the device’s cathode and anode—the negative and positive connections of the cell—to create useable electric power. Most fuel cells currently use membranes that require platinum-based catalysts that are effective but expensive.

Hickner’s new polymer is a unique anion exchange membrane—a new type of fuel cell and battery membrane—that allows the use of much more cost-efficient non-precious metal catalysts and does not compromise either durability or efficiency like previous anion exchange membranes.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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