02/03/2015 – Workshop: “The Polymer Electrolyte Fuel cell and the Enabling Interdisciplinary Science”















Several major car companies intend to bring fuel cell (FC) powered passenger vehicles to market in 2015-2016. As of today, the FC car with compressed hydrogen fuel on board is the only electric passenger vehicle which can answer three key demands of: 500 km range on a full tank of fuel, brief (minutes-long) recharge time and zero tail pipe emission. This in addition to dynamic performance comparable to that of an equivalent IC engine vehicle. It is interesting to look back at this point in time at the science and technology achievements which enabled the development of this low T , liquid-electrolyte-free , electrochemical power source to the point of early commercial product in the highly demanding automotive market. Key milestones on the way to maturation belong in several different disciplines, including:

  • Ion-conducting membranes and maintenance of target membrane hydration levels
  • Fundamental and practical Electrocatalysis based on optimized nano-structures
  • Stack metal hardware
  • Failure diagnostics and mitigation and,
  • Hydrogen storage

The selection of a proton-conducting ionomer, the poly {perfluorocarbon sulfonic acid }, as the polymer electrolyte for present technology fuel cells (PEMFCs) , has been directed by considerations of high specific ionic conductivity , stable polymer backbone chemistry and high tolerance to carbon dioxide . However, this choice of a proton-conducting electrolyte also dictated the use of platinum catalysts which uniquely withstand the strong acid environment. Minimizing Pt loading has been a very important development which has, however, its limits when longevity and reliability are of major concern. Replacement, non-Pt catalysts have been pursued, but their long-term stability in acid electrolyte has not matched that of Pt. To open the door to a radical solution for Pt price and price volatility effects, a cell utilizing an OH- anion conducting membrane ( AMFC ) has been pursued at Cellera starting in 2008. In such alkaline environment, use of non-Pt catalysts becomes possible. In fact, when replacing the PEMFC by the AMFC, the stack cost can be reduced beyond replacement of the Pt catalyst alone. The Cellera AMFC development effort which started in 2008 with work on novel membrane /electrode assemblies with non-Pt catalysts, resulted in 2013 in a 2 kW AMFC stack, tested in the field first as back-up power source for a cell phone tower. The AMFC cell and stack performance will be compared with that of the PEMFC.



16.00 Apertura dei lavori

  • Prof. Alberto Bertucco – Università degli Studi di Padova, Direttore del Centro Levi Cases

16.10 Presentazione del relatore

  • Prof. Vito Di Noto – Università degli Studi di Padova

16.20 The Polymer Electrolyte Fuel cell and the Enabling Interdisciplinary Science

  • Prof. Shimshon GottesfeldCellera Technologies, Caesarea, Israel & Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware, USA

17.20 Discussione

  • Moderatore:  Prof. Vito Di Noto – Università degli Studi di Padova

18.00 Conclusione


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