Open Access
Huang, Xiaoming
Graduate Program:
Materials Science and Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 08, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Chao Yang Wang, Dissertation Advisor
  • Chao Yang Wang, Committee Chair
  • Long Qing Chen, Committee Member
  • Elizabeth C Dickey, Committee Member
  • Michael John Janik, Committee Member
  • DMFC
  • electrolyte membrane
  • supported catalyst
Direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) is an attractive power source for portable applications in the near future, due to the high energy density of liquid methanol. Towards commercialization of the DMFC, several technical and economic challenges need to be addressed though. The present study aims at developing and characterizing high performance membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) for the DMFCs by using a hydrocarbon type membrane (PolyFuel 62) and supported catalysts (PtRu/C). First, methanol and water transport properties in the PolyFuel 62 membrane were examined by various material characterization methods. Compared with the currently used perflurosulfonated Nafion 212 membrane, the PolyFuel membrane has lower methanol crossover, especially at high testing temperature. In addition, based on results of water diffusivity test, water diffusion through the PolyFuel membrane was also lower compared with the Nafion membrane. In order to check the possible impacts of the low methanol and water diffusivities in the PolyFuel membrane, a MEA with this new type of membrane was developed and its performance was compared with a Nafion MEA with otherwise identical electrodes and GDLs. The results showed anode performance was identical, while cathode performance of the PolyFuel MEA was lower. More experiments combined with a transmission line model revealed that low water transport through the PolyFuel membrane resulted in a higher proton resistance in the cathode electrode and thus, leading to a low cathode performance. Thus increasing the water content in the cathode electrode is critical for using the PolyFuel membrane in the DMFC MEA. Then, a low loading carbon supported catalyst, PtRu/C, was prepared and tested as the anode electrode in a MEA of the DMFC. Compared with performance of an unsupported MEA, we could find that lower performance in the supported MEA was due to methanol transport limitation because of the denser and thicker supported catalyst layer. Accordingly, an addition of a pore former, Li2CO3, was proposed during the catalyst ink preparation. This was proved to be very effective, largely improving anode performance with only 1/3 of catalyst loading. Finally, the PolyFuel membrane and supported catalysts were ready to be applied in the new MEA for the DMFCs. The new made MEA, with the catalyst loading of 2.6-time lower than a reference MEA, showed a very promising result, about only 10mV performance loss under the current density of 150mA/cm2 compared with the reference MEA. Moreover, a short-term decay test indicated that the new MEA may have better durability and life because of its low methanol crossover on the cathode electrode due the PolyFuel membrane.