Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Conception and realisation of a direct methanol fuel cell

The project aimed to design a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) based on a new proton exchange membrane, permitting higher cell performance (i.e. a power density of 250 mW/cm 2 at a cell voltage of 0.5 V and a current density of 500 mA/cm 2 ) by raising the working temperature to 150ºC. The project would prepare membranes with innovative characteristics, including high ionic conductivity, high thermal stability, low permeability to methanol, and electrodes with improved catalytic properties.

Currently, the commercialisation of fuel cells, especially DMFCs, is hindered by high component costs, and insufficient long-term performance of the commonly used polymer electrolyte membranes within the DMFC. One way to reduce costs is to increase the power density of the cell by improving membrane materials and moving to high operating temperatures. The consortium believed that another type of fuel cell, the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), held the solution to increased membrane performance due to its specialist membrane. However, the cost of the proton conducting polymer electrolyte membrane, usually made from an ionomeric material like Nafion, might be too expensive for commercial applications. A second potential drawback to using a Nafion membrane in a DMFC is the high permeability of the Nafion membrane to methanol. This leads to mixed cathode potential and drastically decreased fuel cell performance. The project therefore sought to resolve these issues by replacing the Nafion membrane with a suitable

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