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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Researchers Boost Hydrogen Fuel Cell Efficiency With Ionic Materials

  • Led by Professor Myoung Soo Lah, the team employed solid electrolyte materials with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to enhance hydrogen ion conductivity.
  • Current Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells face limitations; MOFs offer an innovative solution with their porous structures and chemical stability.
  • The research suggests a promising path for hydrogen fuel cells, bringing us closer to sustainable and efficient energy solutions.

A Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology(UNIST) research team has made a groundbreaking advancement in improving the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells, which are gaining significant attention as eco-friendly next-generation energy sources.

The study findings were published ahead of their official publication in the online version of Angewandte Chemie International Edition. This work was selected for the back cover of the journal.

Led by Professor Myoung Soo Lah in the Department of Chemistry at UNIST, the team successfully developed solid electrolyte materials utilizing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). This innovative approach significantly enhances the conductivity of hydrogen ions within the solid electrolyte employed in hydrogen fuel cells.

Furthermore, the research team introduced guest molecules with low acidity – marking a pioneering achievement among intermediaries used for this purpose. By implementing a novel methodology that increases the number of guest molecules inside MOF pores, they achieved improved hydrogen ion conductivity.

Hydrogen fuel cells are highly efficient and environmentally friendly power generation devices that directly convert chemical energy derived from reactions between hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy.

Currently, Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells predominantly employ Nafion as an electrolyte material due to its thermal, mechanical, and chemical stability alongside high hydrogen ion conductivity. However, these systems face limitations regarding their operating temperature range and lack clarity on their mechanisms for performance enhancement.

The research team turned their attention to MOFs as potential alternatives. MOFs are materials composed of metal clusters interconnected by organic ligands to form a porous structure. With excellent chemical and thermal stability properties, MOFs have recently garnered considerable interest for use in fuel cell applications. Moreover, when generated, MOFs possess pores of varying sizes that can be utilized for developing materials with high hydrogen ion conductivity by introducing guest molecules through these channels.

In this study conducted by the research team at UNIST led by Professor Myoung Soo Lah’s group members , zwitterionic sulfamic acid – a low-acidity amphoteric ionic substance possessing both positive and negative charges – was introduced as guest molecules into two types of MOFs, namely MOF-808 and MIL-101. Sulfamic acid, a guest molecule with exceptional hydrogen bonding capabilities in various forms, effectively operates as a medium for transferring hydrogen ions.

By increasing the amount of sulfamic acid within the pores of MOFs, the team successfully developed materials demonstrating high hydrogen ion conductivity (achieving levels of 10-1 Scm-1 or higher). Moreover, these materials exhibited remarkable durability as they maintained hydrogen ion conductivity over an extended period.

The research findings hold immense promise for advancing the efficiency and performance of hydrogen fuel cells through the utilization of metal-organic frameworks. This breakthrough contributes to accelerating progress toward sustainable energy solutions in line with global efforts towards decarbonization.

***

There is a lot of hard reality in the fuel cell field. The idea of combusting hydrogen is a near crazy idea as the efficiency is just crushed. Its about as poor a way to use a costly fuel as imaginable.

But a fuel cell can be triple as efficient. That allows the fuel go three times as far, so to speak.

At the moment the media, politics and hype merchants are promoting their latest ideas with little thought to the practical implications.

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One day hydrogen production will get cost competitive, means for storage will be found and fuel cells will last for ten of thousands of hours at near 100% efficiency.

We’re closer than you might think.

By Brian Westenhaus via New Energy and Fuel

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Leave a comment
  • George Kafantaris on October 26 2023 said:
    “Sulfamic acid [H3NSO3], a guest molecule with exceptional hydrogen bonding capabilities in various forms, effectively operates as a medium for transferring hydrogen ions.
    By increasing the amount of sulfamic acid within the pores of MOFs, the team successfully developed materials demonstrating high hydrogen ion conductivity (achieving levels of 10-1 Scm-1 or higher). Moreover, these materials exhibited remarkable durability as they maintained hydrogen ion conductivity over an extended period.” Great work Myoung Soo Lah and team members.

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