Machine Design

PEM may bring high-temperature fuel cells to market

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are developing a new type of polymer-electrolyte membrane (PEM) for fuel cells.

The goal is to bring micro fuel cells closer to reality using fuels such as glucose, methanol, and hydrogen.

The Sandia Polymer Electrolyte Alternative (SPEA) operates as high as 140°C and produces peak power of 1.1 W/cm 2 at 2 A/cm 2 at 80°C. Under identical operating conditions, the SPEA material puts out more power with methanol and hydrogen than does Nafion, the state-of-art PEM material for fuel cells. This suggests the Sandia material may be a potential alternative to Nafion.

There are several advantages with the SPEA material operating at high temperatures. It makes possible smaller fuel-cell stacks thanks to better heat rejection, enhanced water management, and its significant resistance to carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Researchers are now trying to reduce the internal resistance of the fuel-cellmembrane electrode assembly. SPEA fuel cells may see use in sensors, cell phones, laptops, and automobiles.

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