New materials for more efficient and cost-effectivefuel cells

Background

Fuel cells have all the advantages and potentials to become central devices in the energy systems of tomorrow, e.g.,in electric vehicles and in smart grids. At least for larger commercial vehicles there will be a continued need for a primary energy converter on-board and fuel cells based on polymer membranes are considered as efficient, silent, emission-free alternatives to internal combustion engines. The leading low temperature fuel cell technology is the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC), utilizing polymer electrolyte membranes and carbon supported platinum nano-catalysts. This type of cell is already commercialized for different applications, but is still very expensive.

Aims

The primary goal is to develop a new generation of polymer electrolyte fuel cells using cheaper membranes and catalysts. Changing to non-acid media increases the kinetics of the cathodereaction, enabling the use of platinum-free catalysts as silver and nickel, but also increases the durability of cell components thanks to a less corrosive environment. The overall goal of these projects is to develop a new generation of anion exchange membrane fuel cell (AEMFC), based on novel alkaline membranes and new catalysts with less, or totally free from, platinum. The new fuel cell should have significantly improved properties compared to current state-of-the-art AEMFC with respect to cost, electrochemical performance and durability.

Approaches

In collaboration with polymer chemists at Lund University (Patric Jannasch), new anion exchange membranes are developed and investigated in real fuel cell environment in the laboratory at KTH. Together with Chemical Physics at Chalmers (Björn Wickman), model catalysts of new compositions are fabricated and then evaluated electrochemically at KTH.From the most promising catalyst materials, nanoparticles are fabricated by use of a radiation-induced synthesis at KTH (Applied physical chemistry). The new fuel cell components are investigated in small lab-cells by means of steady-state polarisation curves and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy at different operating conditions. The interpretation of experimental results is supported by mathematical modelling on component and cell level.

Keywords

fuel cell, anion exchange membrane, catalyst, Pt-alloy, modelling

Project leader

Prof. Göran Lindbergh, Prof. Carina Lagergren,Prof. Rakel Wreland Lindström, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, KTH, Dr.  Inna Soroka, Department of Chemistry, KTH

Other project members

Henrik Grimler, Eva Marra, Nikola Nikolic, Timon Novalin, Yi Yang, KTH

Additional funding (apart from StandUp for Energy)

Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten), Strategic vehicle research and innovation (FFI), the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF).