Fuel cell water highways paved by electron radiation grafting

by | Oct 13, 2015

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute have developed a coating technique that improves water management in fuel cells, thus raising their efficiency.

(Copyright Paul Scherrer Institute, used here with permission. Please click here to watch the video on Youku if you are unable to access Youtube)

Polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) powered by hydrogen can achieve high efficiency and power density with zero emission, making them an attractive replacement for fossil fuel fed engines. As the only reaction product, water is crucial to cell performance: while a certain amount of water is required to humidify the membrane, an excessive quantity hinders the access of gas to the reactant sites.


Now, Antoni Forner-Cuenca and co-workers at Paul Scherrer Institut (Switzerland) report a method to regulate water pathways in the gas diffusion layer (GDL), a porous carbon fiber-based paper responsible for the fine distribution of reactant gases, the conduction of electricity and heat, and the removal of product water. The material is locally irradiated with electrons using masks and a hydrophilic monomer is grafted on the hydrophobic coating in these activated regions.

Compared with state-of-the-art materials where water pathways are randomly distributed through hydrophobic coating, the reported strategy enables highly flexible pattern design and has a good potential for upscaling.

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