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Research Papers

Fabrication of Foamed Polyethersulfone–Zeolite Mixed Matrix Membranes for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Humidification

[+] Author and Article Information
Russell Borduin

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712

Wei Li

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
The University of Texas at Austin,
Austin, TX 78712
e-mail: weiwli@austin.utexas.edu

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received April 19, 2016; final manuscript received July 25, 2016; published online August 24, 2016. Assoc. Editor: Donggang Yao.

J. Manuf. Sci. Eng 139(2), 021004 (Aug 24, 2016) (7 pages) Paper No: MANU-16-1232; doi: 10.1115/1.4034400 History: Received April 19, 2016; Revised July 25, 2016

Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell efficiency must be improved in order to become cost competitive with fossil fuel-based technologies. Approaches to increasing cost efficiency include raising fuel cell operating temperature, reducing component cost, and properly controlling fuel cell humidification. We sought to fulfill all three requirements by developing a new low-cost, high-temperature humidification membrane material. Currently, Nafion dominates the membrane humidifier market due to its excellent water transport characteristics, but its high price (∼$1000/m2) and low maximum operating temperature (<90 °C) drive up fuel cell cost. We developed a competing polyethersulfone (PES)–zeolite mixed matrix membrane (MMM) with a porous microstructure. Solvent casting was used to form the initial PES–zeolite films, followed by solid-state foaming to alter the film morphology and create a porous structure. The effects of both zeolite weight loading and foaming duration on membrane permeability were investigated. Membrane measurement results show that both foaming and increased zeolite weight loading enhance membrane water permeability close to levels seen in Nafion. Meanwhile, the membranes satisfy the Department of Energy (DOE) crossover gas requirement for humidification membrane materials.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Percent CO2 saturation versus saturation pressure for PES [1517]

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Fig. 2

Solid-state foaming process for PES films

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Fig. 3

System diagram of accumulation permeability measurement system

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Fig. 4

SEM of PES membrane cross section at 600× magnification with no added zeolite

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Fig. 5

SEM of foamed PES film cross section at 600× magnification showing porous region and dense skin layers

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Fig. 6

SEM of 30% zeolite film cross sections at 600× magnification for unfoamed (a), 1 s foamed (b), and 3 s foamed (c) conditions

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Fig. 7

SEM of 50% zeolite film cross sections at 600× magnification for unfoamed (a), 1 s foamed (b), and 3 s foamed (c) conditions

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Fig. 8

Effect of solid-state foaming on membrane water vapor permeation rate

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Fig. 9

Effect of zeolite weight loading percent on membrane water vapor permeation rate

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