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Development of a Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell System with Anion Exchange Membranes


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The ultimately goal for this project is to provide the US army with a prototype of a 40W direct ethanol fuel cell (DEFC) stack using non-platinum catalysts, alkaline ionomers, and alkaline anion-exchange-membranes. Through executing this SBIR II projects, we have successfully carried out the proposed work and developed key materials for DEFC applications, which include MnO2-based cathode catalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and Pd-based anode catalysts for ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR). Furthermore, composite membranes with an improved fuel crossover resistance were developed. The DEFCs using the new anode and cathode catalysts and membranes achieved peak power densities up to 150 mW cm-2 and 60% fuel energy efficiency by using optimal fuels at 90 deg C. The power capacity obtained with the DEFCs that used low cost materials is comparable with state-of-the-art proton exchange membrane direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) that utilize expensive Pt-based catalysts and proton exchange membranes, and high-pressure oxygen gas. However, some major technical challenges still exist in developing commercializable DEFC products. A further research plan to address these challenges has been proposed in order to develop and produce 40W DEFC systems as viable products for surveillance and portable power electronics applications.



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