Polymeric Anion Exchange Membranes
3M will develop a new anion exchange membrane (AEM) technology with widespread applications in fuel cells, electrolyzers, and flow batteries. Unlike many proton exchange membrane (PEM) applications, the team’s AEM will operate in an alkaline environment, which means lower-cost electrodes can be used. The team plans to engineer a membrane that simultaneously meets key goals for resistance, mechanical and chemical stability, and cost. They will do this by focusing on simple, hydroxide-stable polymers, such as polyethylene, and stable cations, such as tetraalkylammonium and imidazolium groups. Positively-charged cation side chains attached to the polymer backbone will facilitate passage of hydroxide ions through the electrolyte, resulting in enhanced ionic conductivity. The proposed polymer chemistry is envisioned to be low cost and can be used in alkaline environments, and can be processed into mechanically robust membrane composites. This membrane technology has the potential to enable high volume, low-cost production of AEMs. The impact of this project can be transformational as the commercial availability of high-quality AEMs has been a limiting factor in developing AEM-based devices.
If successful, developments made under the IONICS program will create a fundamentally lower cost trajectory for electrochemical systems, such as fuel cells and electrolyzers, which are currently based on proton exchange membranes.
IONICS program innovations could contribute to energy storage and conversion solutions for transportation and the grid, lessening U.S. dependence on imported oil and improving grid resilience.
Greater integration of renewable resources into the power mix will reduce the need for other more carbon-intensive forms of electricity generation.
IONICS program innovations could permit the use of the oxygen and hydrogen electrodes with low-cost catalysts and other components, which could save over 50% of current fuel cell stack costs (at high volume) and reduce vehicle fuel cell system and combined heat and power system costs by about 25%.