A flexible all-inorganic fuel cell membrane with conductivity above Nafion, and durable operation at 150 °c

Y. Ansari, T. G. Tucker, W. Huang, I. S. Klein, S. Y. Lee, Jeffery Yarger, Charles Angell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The search for fuel cell membranes has focused on carbon backbone polymers, among which Nafion seems to best survive the most severe of the degradation mechanisms - attack by peroxide radicals. Less attention has been given to inorganic membranes because of their generally inflexible nature and lower conductivity, though some SiO2-Nafion composites have shown improved properties. Nafion dominates, despite needing hydration, which then restricts operation to below 100 °C (so CO poisoning problems persist). Described herein is a low cost, flexible, and all-inorganic fiberglass reinforced gel membrane with conductivity exceeding that of Nafion at any temperature above 60 °C. Using Teflon fuel cells, maximum currents > 1 Acm-2 and OCV of 1.03 V at 150 °C are demonstrated. No detectable loss of cell potential was observed over 24 h during 50 mAcm-2 constant current operation at 120 °C while, at 150 °C and maximum power, the degradation rate is intermediate among other high conductivity H3PO4-PBI type membranes. The structure of the membrane is deduced, mainly from 29Si solid state-NMR. The -115 ppm resonance, which is extreme for Q4 Si(O) structures, identifies a zeolite-like SiO2 network, which is "floppy". 31P and 1H NMR establish nano-permeating H3PO4 as the source of the exceptional conductivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-149
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - Jan 30 2016


  • 150 °C fuel cell
  • Conductivity above Nafion
  • Inorganic fuel cell membrane

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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