Fuel cells are a key technology for the successful transition towards a hydrogen society. In order to accelerate fuel cell commercialization, improvements in performance are required. Generally, polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEFCs) are membrane-supported; the electrocatalyst layer is sprayed onto both sides of the membrane, and sandwiched between carbon-based gas diffusion layers (GDLs). In this work we redesign the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) and fabricate an electrode-supported PEFC. First the electrocatalyst layer is sprayed onto the GDL, and then Nafion dispersion is sprayed over the top of this to form a thin membrane. This method has the advantage of simplifying the fabrication process, allowing the fabrication of extremely thin electrolyte layers (down to ∼10 μm in this case), and reducing the amount of ionomer required in the cell. Electrode-supported PEFCs operate at significantly increased power density compared to conventional membrane-supported PEFCs, with a maximum of 581 mW/cm2 at 80 °C (atmospheric pressure, air at the cathode). Impedance spectroscopy confirmed that the origin of the improved performance was an 80% reduction in the membrane resistance due the thinner Nafion layer. This novel fabrication method is a step towards cheaper, thinner, fully printable PEFCs with high power density and efficiency.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering