Functionalized fullerene embedded in Nafion matrix: A modified composite membrane electrolyte for direct methanol fuel cells

Research paper by Gutru Rambabu, N. Nagaraju, Santoshkumar D. Bhat

Indexed on: 14 Jul '16Published on: 09 Jul '16Published in: Chemical Engineering Journal


Methanol permeability is a major concern for Nafion® membranes used as polymer electrolyte in direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). In the present study, composite membranes are formed by incorporation of functionalized fullerene (FF) in Nafion® ionomer for its use as electrolytes in direct methanol fuel cells at various methanol concentrations. Fullerene was functionalized by 4-benzene diazonium sulfonic acid precursor formed via diazotization reaction of sulfanilic acid. Surface functionalization and sulfonation of fullerene is confirmed by Raman spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and elemental analysis. Structural changes in fullerene are determined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis. The composite membranes of Nafion®-FF are prepared by solvent casting technique and characterized for their physico-chemical properties in terms of water uptake, proton conductivity and methanol permeability. The morphological changes are observed by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) suggesting the FF distribution in Nafion® and atomic force microscopy (AFM) explaining the presence of FF in the ionic clusters of Nafion® thereby increasing the surface roughness. Nafion®-FF composite membranes show improved proton conductivity due to the presence of surface functional –SO3H groups. Composite membranes exhibit better electrochemical selectivity and as a result enhanced DMFC power output in comparison to recast Nafion®. In addition, methanol permeability and DMFC polarization for the optimized composite membrane are carried out at different methanol concentration. The peak power density of 146 mW cm-2 in DMFC is obtained for Nafion®-FF (1 wt.%) at 2 M methanol which is higher than the performance observed for Nafion-117. Open circuit voltage change is minimal with respect to time for Nafion®-FF (1 wt.%) confirming its better stability in comparison with recast Nafion® and on par with Nafion-117.

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