DOE Phase II Award for Development of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Membranes

(Photo by Timothy Snow / NREL)
Tetramer is proud to announce the receipt of a Phase II award from the Department of Energy to further develop and commercialize novel ion conductive polymers produced in our laboratories for use in proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen fuel cells are one of the most promising technologies for renewable clean energy production, but current membrane components fall short of cost and performance targets. The new Tetramer custom membrane materials will be developed to meet current performance and cost requirements and will enable commercialization of high-performance fuel cells.

Success of this work would be a significant step toward clean energy production in two of the largest energy markets, transportation (e.g. automotive and warehouse material handling equipment) and stationary power (e.g. primary and back-up power generators).

This highly competitive Phase II grant was awarded based on Tetramer’s Phase I work in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  During Phase I, we successfully demonstrated the production of a membrane which outperformed leading commercial membranes. During Phase II, we will further develop and optimize high-performing materials by customizing the molecular architecture of the polymer structure and the membrane design.  In addition to our continuing collaboration with NREL, we will work in close partnership with a leading fuel cell device manufacturer to design and produce systems with improved performance and reduced costs compared to current technology.

__________________________________________

PROJECT SUMMARY
Improved Ionomers and Membranes for Fuel Cells DE-FOA-0002156 (Topic 10a)
Tetramer Technologies, LLC
Principal Investigator: Dr. Chris Topping

Problem Addressed: Proton exchange membrane fuel cells are one of the most promising energy conversion technologies for renewable clean energy applications. However, the current leading commercial perfluorosulfonic acid based materials are relatively expensive and have physical and chemical properties which limit fuel cell performance and durability, particularly under desirable high temperature operating conditions.

Approach to Solving Problem: This work is focused on the development and production of improved, non-perfluorosulfonic acid conductive polymers and composite membranes that have the potential of operating at a higher temperature than the current perfluorosulfonic acid ionomers. Importantly, the structure of these materials allows for custom tailoring of physical and chemical properties key to effective performance under the harsher operating conditions required for next generation fuel cell applications. Building on our Phase I accomplishments, down-selected ionomers will be systematically customized to meet the requirements of current and future commercial fuel cell units.

Phase I Accomplishments: During Phase I we successfully demonstrated the synthesis of a series of novel ionomers. Based on these materials, effective proton exchange membranes were produced with simultaneously higher conductivity and lower hydrogen crossover than the commercial perfluorosulfonic acid baseline. A number of approaches were successfully demonstrated to allow tailoring and control of water uptake, ion exchange capacity and conductivity. The most promising ionomers and techniques were down-selected for further development during Phase II.

Plans for Phase II: During Phase II, we plan to further optimize and develop our Phase I down-selected materials. Our primary focus will be to increase the efficiency by optimizing proton conductivity and further reducing the hydrogen permeability for each down-selected structure. Durability enhancing techniques will be applied to the most promising membranes in order to address specific demands of high temperature and low humidity operation, while maintaining excellent performance. Our collaborators for specialty in situ fuel cell testing include a National Laboratory and a leading fuel cell device manufacturer. Device relevant single cell fuel cell tests will be carried out by our commercial partner throughout Phase II, leading to laboratory stack tests and field tests for down-selected Phase II membranes along with a detailed production cost analysis.

Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: Success of this work would be a significant step toward clean energy production in two of the largest energy markets, transportation and stationary power. The development of more efficient fuel cells would result in a reduced dependence on fossil fuels and the associated economic, political and environmental issues related to their extraction, refinement, supply and final use.

Summary for Members of Congress: Hydrogen fuel cells are one of the most promising technologies for renewable clean energy production, however current membrane components fall short of critical cost and performance targets. New custom membrane materials will be developed to address current performance and cost requirements and enable broader commercialization of high performance fuel cells.

Key Words: Fuel Cell, Proton Exchange Membrane, Polymer Electrolyte Membrane, Hydrogen, Ionomer, Clean Energy.