Georgia Tech Develops High-Temperature Membrane for PEM Fuel Cells

September 07, 2005

A breakthrough in the chemistry of fuel cells that use a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) could allow them to operate at higher efficiencies, according to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Lightweight PEM fuel cells are considered the most promising technology for fuel-cell vehicles, but because they operate at temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius (the boiling point of water), they also operate at low efficiencies. By incorporating a chemical called triazole into the polymer membrane, the Georgia Tech researchers were able to increase operating temperatures to 120 degrees Celsius. This will not only allow the fuel cells to operate more efficiently, but will also make them more tolerant of trace amounts of carbon monoxide in the hydrogen fuel, according to Georgia Tech. Triazole consists of two carbon atoms and three nitrogen atoms in a ring, with three hydrogen atoms along its perimeter. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. See the Georgia Tech press release.