Electrospun Reinforced Polymer-Polymer Composite Membranes for Applications in PEM Fuel Cells

Wilson, David
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University of Delaware
Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) ffuel cells are seen as the next generation of clean energy, sought to replace the likes of batteries. However, PEM fuel cells are limited by a mechanically unstable Nafion membrane that limits its lifespan. To combat this dilemma, it has been suggested that such membranes can be mechanically reinforced in a variety of ways, specifically through the consolidation of electrospun nanofiber mats. Previous research in the development of electro-active composites successfully derived the procedure for producing such hierarchically consolidated nanofiber composite films, called the μVARTM method. Application of this technique towards the PEM fuel cell membrane dilemma, thus, could result in the next huge step in PEM fuel cell lifespans. Therefore, as a proof-of-concept, polystyrene and polyvinylidene fluoride were chosen and dissolved in dimethyl formamide to be electrospun for the creation of the reinforcements for this study. Afterwards, degradation testing provided that the reinforcements should be consolidated within a Nafion solution dissolved in methanol and deionized water at a 4:1 ratio. Dimethyl acetamide was also a tested solvent to compare against Methanol, however, was shown to destroy the reinforcements. In consequence, the results that followed not only yielded a much more in depth understanding of the nanofiber consolidation process, or μVARTM method, for producing composite membranes, but also sifted through the challenges of applying such a discovery towards PEM fuel cells to bring about the necessary procedure in producing accurate membranes in the future.
Mechanical Engineering , fuel cells , composite membranes