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Revolutionising the Design for a Fuel Cell Electrolyte

An international team of scientists have developed a new simple and universal design for the fuel cell electrolyte.

Formulation of new materials for cost-effective technologies has proven to be necessary to combat the environmental harm done and attaining sustainability.

Researchers at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) and Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences have successfully established a universal synthetic design using porous organic polymers (POPs) for fuel cell electrolyte, according to an Editor’s choice hot article published in the journal¬†Materials Chemistry Frontiers.

There are high expectations for polymer electrolyte fuel cell as a clean energy system that is able to support environmental sustainability. Polymeric materials with high proton conductivity are required to achieve this and only allowing protons to pass through for electricity to be extracted.

In the present study, a simple, universal, and cost-effective synthetic strategy for gaining high proton-conductivity POPs were demonstrated.

Previous studies displayed problems such as the synthetic method using POPs was complicated and the skeleton was limited. In order to establish the synthetic strategy universal for practical applications, materials scientist Yuki Nagao of JAIST shared that they were able to try various skeletons as POPs and established the synthetic method applicable to almost all aromatic-based materials.

Dividing the process into two steps, a porous organic polymer was first synthesized. Following that a post-sulfonation strategy was adopted which then introduced sulfonic acid groups through the pores. The catalyst used during synthesis causes deterioration of the material during fuel cell operation, but it could also be removed by using the pores. Their product showed remarkable conductivity.

“Results of this study indicate that the structure of sulfonated POPs offers a simple and universal means for evolving structural design for highly proton-conductive materials.,” explains Zhongping Li, who is the first author of this work.¬†[APBN]