A novel heteropolyacid-doped carbon nanotubes/Nafion nanocomposite membrane for high performance proton-exchange methanol fuel cell applications

Research paper by Payam Molla-Abbasi, Kamran Janghorban; Mahsa S. Asgari

Indexed on: 07 Mar '18Published on: 01 Feb '18Published in: Iranian Polymer Journal


A novel proton-exchange polymer composite membrane was synthesized using Nafion®, tetraethoxysilane-modified carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and phosphotungstic acid-modified carbon nanotubes with the aim of using direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). Physicochemical properties of the modified CNTs and fabricated composite membranes were investigated by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, field emission scanning electron microscopy, water uptake, thermogravimetric analysis, ion exchange capacity, proton conductivity and methanol permeability tests. It was demonstrated that chemical surface modification of CNTs and introduction of the phosphotungstic acid (PWA) groups effectively improved the performance of DMFC. It was found that the presence of PWA groups on the surface of CNTs led to the formation of strong electrostatic interactions between the PWA groups and clusters of sulfonic acid in Nafion® macromolecules. Hence, the incorporation of inorganic phosphotungstic super-acid-doped silicon oxide-covered carbon nanotubes (CNT@SiO2-PWA) into Nafion® matrices enhanced the proton conductivity of the prepared membranes. Moreover, the methanol permeability was reduced to 2.63 × 10−7 cm2 s−1 in comparison with the recast Nafion® membrane (2.25 × 10−6 cm2 s−1). Enhancing the proton conductivity and reducing the methanol permeability, the selectivity of the prepared nanocomposite membranes was enhanced to a greater value of 330,700 S s cm−3 as compared to the value of 38,222 S s cm−3 for recast Nafion®.