The team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will design proton-selective membranes for use in storage technologies, such as flow batteries, fuel cells, or electrolyzers for liquid-fuel storage. Current proton-selective membranes (e.g. Nafion) require hydration, but the proposed materials would be the first low-temperature membranes that conduct protons without the need for hydration. The enabling technology relies on making single-layer membranes from graphene or similar materials and supporting them for mechanical stability. The team estimates that these membranes can be manufactured at costs around one order of magnitude lower than Nafion membranes. Due to the lower system complexity, the team’s innovations would enable fuel cell production at lower system-level costs.
If successful this technology could substantially lower the cost of fuel cells, and encourage greater adoption of fuel cells in transportation and stationary applications.
Enabling efficient fuel cells to run on hydrogen or alcohols would diversify the resources we rely on for transportation.
Fuel cells are more efficient energy-conversion technologies than internal combustion engines and do not emit harmful air pollutants.
Domestic production of low-cost PEMs and low-cost fuel cells could enable widespread deployment of fuel cells for transportation, stationary, and portable applications.