Performance and efficiency of a DMFC using non-fluorinated composite
membranes operating at low/medium temperatures
AbstractIn order to increase the chemical/thermal stability of the sulfonated poly(ether ether ketone) (sPEEK) polymer for direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) applications at medium temperatures (up to 130 °C), novel inorganic–organic composite membranes were prepared using sPEEK polymer as organic matrix (sulfonation degree, SD, of 42 and 68%) modified with zirconium phosphate (ZrPh) pretreated with n-propylamine and polybenzimidazole (PBI). The final compositions obtained were: 10.0 wt.% ZrPh and 5.6 wt.% PBI; 20.0 wt.% ZrPh and 11.2 wt.% PBI. These composite membranes were tested in DMFC at several temperatures by evaluating the current–voltage polarization curve, open circuit voltage (OCV) and constant voltage current (CV, 35 mV). The fuel cell ohmic resistance (null phase angle impedance, NPAI) and CO2 concentration in the cathode outlet were also measured. A method is also proposed to evaluate the fuel cell Faraday and global efficiency considering the CH3OH, CO2, H2O, O2 and N2 permeation through the proton exchange membrane (PEM) and parasitic oxidation of the crossover methanol in the cathode. In order to improve the analysis of the composite membrane properties, selected characterization results presented in [V.S. Silva, B. Ruffmann, S. Vetter, A. Mendes, L.M. Madeira, S.P. Nunes, Catal. Today, in press] were also used in the present study. The unmodified sPEEK membrane with SD = 42% (S42) was used as the reference material. In the present study, the composite membrane prepared with sPEEK SD = 68% and inorganic composition of 20.0 wt.% ZrPh and 11.2 wt.% PBI proved to have a good relationship between proton conductivity, aqueous methanol swelling and permeability. DMFC tests results for this membrane showed similar current density output and higher open circuit voltage compared to that of sPEEK with SD = 42%, but with much lower CO2 concentration in the cathode outlet (thus higher global efficiency) and higher thermal/chemical stability. This membrane was also tested at 130 °C with pure oxygen (cathode inlet) and achieved a maximum power density of 50.1 mW cm−2 at 250 mA cm−2.