Self assembled 12-tungstophosphoric acid-silica mesoporous nanocomposites as proton exchange membranes for direct alcohol fuel cells.

Research paper by Haolin H Tang, Mu M Pan, San Ping SP Jiang

Indexed on: 02 Apr '11Published on: 02 Apr '11Published in: Dalton Transactions


A highly ordered inorganic electrolyte based on 12-tungstophosphoric acid (H(3)PW(12)O(40), abbreviated as HPW or PWA)-silica mesoporous nanocomposite was synthesized through a facile one-step self-assembly between the positively charged silica precursor and negatively charged PW(12)O(40)(3-) species. The self-assembled HPW-silica nanocomposites were characterized by small-angle XRD, TEM, nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms, ion exchange capacity, proton conductivity and solid-state (31)P NMR. The results show that highly ordered and uniform nanoarrays with long-range order are formed when the HPW content in the nanocomposites is equal to or lower than 25 wt%. The mesoporous structures/textures were clearly presented, with nanochannels of 3.2-3.5 nm in diameter. The (31)P NMR results indicates that there are (≡SiOH(2)(+))(H(2)PW(12)O(40)(-)) species in the HPW-silica nanocomposites. A HPW-silica (25/75 w/o) nanocomposite gave an activation energy of 13.0 kJ mol(-1) and proton conductivity of 0.076 S cm(-1) at 100 °C and 100 RH%, and an activation energy of 26.1 kJ mol(-1) and proton conductivity of 0.05 S cm(-1) at 200 °C with no external humidification. A fuel cell based on a 165 μm thick HPW-silica nanocomposite membrane achieved a maximum power output of 128.5 and 112.0 mW cm(-2) for methanol and ethanol fuels, respectively, at 200 °C. The high proton conductivity and good performance demonstrate the excellent water retention capability and great potential of the highly ordered HPW-silica mesoporous nanocomposites as high-temperature proton exchange membranes for direct alcohol fuel cells (DAFCs).