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Title: Durable and self-hydrating tungsten carbide-based composite polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells

Proton conductivity of the polymer electrolyte membranes in fuel cells dictates their performance and requires sufficient water management. Here, we report a simple, scalable method to produce well-dispersed transition metal carbide nanoparticles. We demonstrate that these, when added as an additive to the proton exchange Nafion membrane, provide significant enhancement in power density and durability over 100 hours, surpassing both the baseline Nafion and platinum-containing recast Nafion membranes. Using focused ion beam/scanning electron microscope tomography reveals the key membrane degradation mechanism. Density functional theory exposes that OH• and H• radicals adsorb more strongly from solution and reactions producing OH• are significantly more endergonic on tungsten carbide than on platinum. Consequently, tungsten carbide may be a promising catalyst in self-hydrating crossover gases while retarding desorption of and capturing free radicals formed at the cathode, resulting in enhanced membrane durability.
 [1] ; ORCiD logo [2] ;  [3] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [1]
  1. Univ. of Delaware, Newark, DE (United States). Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation and Center for Catalytic Science and Technology
  2. Univ. of Delaware, Newark, DE (United States). Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Center for Full Cell Research
  3. Univ. of Delaware, Newark, DE (United States). Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 8; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-1723
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Univ. of Delaware, Newark, DE (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; 30 DIRECT ENERGY CONVERSION; Electrocatalysis; fuel cells
OSTI Identifier: