Increasing the operation temperature of polymer electrolyte membranes for fuel cells: From nanocomposites to hybrids

Silvia Licoccia, Enrico Traversa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Among the possible systems investigated for energy production with low environmental impact, polymeric electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are very promising as electrochemical power sources for application in portable technology and electric vehicles. For practical applications, operating FCs at temperatures above 100 °C is desired, both for hydrogen and methanol fuelled cells. When hydrogen is used as fuel, an increase of the cell temperature produces enhanced CO tolerance, faster reaction kinetics, easier water management and reduced heat exchanger requirement. The use of methanol instead of hydrogen as a fuel for vehicles has several practical benefits such as easy transport and storage, but the slow oxidation kinetics of methanol needs operating direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) at intermediate temperatures. For this reason, new membranes are required. Our strategy to achieve the goal of operating at temperatures above 120 °C is to develop organic/inorganic hybrid membranes. The first approach was the use of nanocomposite class I hybrids where nanocrystalline ceramic oxides were added to Nafion. Nanocomposite membranes showed enhanced characteristics, hence allowing their operation up to 130 °C when the cell was fuelled with hydrogen and up to 145 °C in DMFCs, reaching power densities of 350 mW cm-2. The second approach was to prepare Class II hybrids via the formation of covalent bonds between totally aromatic polymers and inorganic clusters. The properties of such covalent hybrids can be modulated by modifying the ratio between organic and inorganic groups and the nature of the chemical components allowing to reach high and stable conductivity values up to 6.4 × 10-2 S cm-1 at 120 °C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Issue number1 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Sep 13 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Intermediate temperature operation
  • Nanocomposites
  • Organic-inorganic hybrids
  • Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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