Interest in fuel cell technology is rising as a result of the need for more affordable and available fuel sources. Proton exchange membrane fuel cells involve the catalysis of a fuel to release protons and electrons. It requires the use of a polymer electrolyte membrane to transfer protons through the cell, while the electrons pass through an external circuit, producing electricity. The surface modification of the polymer, Nafion®, commonly researched as a proton exchange membrane, may improve efficiency of a fuel cell. Surface modification can change the chemistry of the surface of a polymer while maintaining bulk properties. Plasma modification techniques such as microwave discharge of an argon and oxygen gas mixture as well as vacuum-ultraviolet (VUV) photolysis may cause favorable chemical and physical changes on the surface of Nafion for improved fuel cell function. A possible increase in hydrophilicity as a result of microwave discharge experiments may increase proton conductivity. Grafting of acrylic acid from the surface of modified Nafion may decrease the permeation of methanol in a direct methanol fuel cell, a process which can decrease efficiency. Modification of the surface of Nafion samples were carried out using: 1) An indirect Ar/O2 gas mixture plasma investigating the reaction of oxygen radicals with the surface, 2) A direct Ar/O2 gas mixture plasma investigating the reaction of oxygen radicals and VUV radiation with the surface and, 3) VUV photolysis investigating exclusively the interaction of VUV radiation with the surface and any possible oxidation upon exposure to air. Acrylic acid was grafted from the VUV photolysed Nafion samples. All treated surfaces were analyzed using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to analyze the grafted Nafion samples. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and contact angle measurements were used to analyze experiments 2 and 3. Using hydrogen as fuel is a promising option. Effective hydrogen storage methods must be used as sources of available hydrogen. One possibility is to use hydrogen stored in a solid chemical compound such as magnesium hydride. The kinetics of hydrogen release from the hydrolysis of magnesium hydride with 2 wt% acetic acid was examined. The hydrogen produced was supplied to a fuel cell and the amount of hydrogen consumed by the fuel cell was determined. Carbon nanotubes also can play a role in energy sources and as components in fuel cells. VUV photo-oxidized single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) paper was grafted with polyacrylic acid and analyzed using XPS.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Proton exchange membrane fuel cells--Materials; Polymers--Electric properties; Surface chemistry
Department, Program, or Center
School of Chemistry and Materials Science (COS)
Andrews, Lisa, "Surface modification of a proton exchange membrane and hydrogen storage in a metal hydride for fuel cells" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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