Yushan Yan’s Group Develops an Engineered Hydroxide Exchange Membrane (HEM) with Excellent Properties for Fuel Cell Applications

Professor Yushan Yan’s group recently reported an important advance in the development of polymer hydroxide (OH–) exchange membranes (HEMs) for fuel cell applications. In contrast to proton exchange membranes (PEMs), HEMs have lower materials costs and durability problems and can be utilized in combination with electrocatalysts that are more abundant and inexpensive than precious metal catalysts used for PEM fuel cells. In HEM design there has been well-known trade-off between swelling control and ion conductivity. Yan’s group has largely overcome this problem by enhancing van der Waals interactions among polymer chains. Using large quaternary phosphonium-functionalized polymers and a high electron density polymer chain (see Scheme I), the Yan group was able to prepare a new membrane with low swelling, high hydroxide conductivity and excellent HEM fuel cell performance. This discovery was reported in the May issue ChemSusChem (2012, 5, 843-848) and was highlighted as the cover.


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