This subject takes place in the frame of the development of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) and the main objective is to increase their performance and durability for operation above 100°C at low relative humidity.
The current standard membranes for use in PEMFC applications remain perfluorosulfonated ionomers such as Nafion® due their good proton conductivity and chemical stability. Nevertheless, their proton conductivity decreases for relative humidity below 70% especially at high temperature because of a too low density of proton conducting groups. This characteristic is a limitation for their use in the working conditions of the requirements for the automotive application. With these polymers, an increase of the proton conducting group density leads to a decrease of mechanical and dimensional stability. Yet, this stability is already quite low and decreases the PEMFC durability. The goal of this subject is to develop new membrane structures based on interpenetrating polymer networks that do not present this antagonism between good mechanical stability and proton conductivity. This strategy which has recently been patented by CEA (patent application number 08 06890) is based on the association of two entangled polymer networks, one sulfonated for proton conductivity and one fluorinated for mechanical and chemical stability.
The applicant will make the membranes and then will characterize their mechanical properties, proton conductivity as well as gas permeability. He will also quantify their performance and durability in a running fuel cell.