Transforming Energy Lecture Series: Peter N. Pintauro
Monday, February 18, 2008
1110 Kim Bldg.
301 405 2368
In Pursuit of the Ideal Fuel Cell Membrane: How Close are We?
by Peter N. Pintauro
Case Western University
Proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which operate at relatively low temperatures with either hydrogen gas or liquid methanol as the fuel, are promising electrochemical energy conversion devices for automotive, stationary power, and portable power applications. A key component of such fuel cells is the ion-exchange membrane, which physically separates the electrodes, prevents mixing of the fuel and oxidant, and provides pathways for proton transport between the electrodes. The property/performance requirements that have been placed on the fuel cell membrane are stringent and highly demanding. For a hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell, the membrane must conduct protons when fully wet and partially dry. In a direct methanol fuel cell, the membrane must conduct protons but not be permeable to methanol. Additionally, all fuel cell membrane materials must be thermally, mechanically and chemically stable and of moderate cost. Over the past 15-20 years, fuel cell membrane research has evolved from the synthesis and testing of new polymers to the fabrication and examination of polymer blends and polymeric/particle composites. These past efforts to create an "ideal" fuel cell membrane have resulted in only modest successes. Today, much of the exciting and promising fuel cell membrane R&D is focused on membrane nanomorphology control, via strategies such as polymer chemistry design, the use of block copolymers that self organize at the nano-scale, and new membrane fabrication techniques that alter the membrane nanostructure. In this talk, a historical overview of membrane development for hydrogen/air and direct methanol fuel cells will be given. Two examples of current work on fuel cell membrane nanomorphology manipulation/control will be discussed: (i) Polymer composite membranes based on interconnecting proton conductive nano-fibers and (ii) pre-stretched recast Nafion® for direct methanol fuel cells. The presentation will conclude by addressing the question posed in the seminar title.
Peter N. Pintauro is the Kent Hale Smith Professor of Engineering and Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. He received B.S. (1973) and M.S. (1975) degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. degree (1980) from the University of California, Los Angeles. From 1981 through 1986 he was a post-doctoral scholar and then research assistant professor in the chemical engineering department at UCLA, doing work primarily in organic electrochemistry. He joined the faculty of Tulane University in August 1986, where he rose to the rank of professor of chemical engineering in 1994. He accepted the department chair position at Case Western Reserve University in July of 2002 and was appointed Kent Hale Smith Professor in October 2004. His research interests are in the areas of electrochemical engineering, membrane fabrication and separations, membrane transport modeling, fuel cells and organic electrochemical synthesis. He is the author or co-author of 97 scientific publications and a listed inventor on six patents. He has given mroe than 100 invited lectures at technical conferences, industry and academia. From 1997 through 2002, he was North American editor of the Journal of Applied Electrochemistry. He is currently president of the North American Membrane Society and is an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Electrochemical Society and the American Chemical Society.