Composite Polymers for Electrolyte Membrane Technologies

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molecules Review Composite Polymers Development and Application for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Technologies—A Review Gabriele G. Gagliardi 1, Ahmed Ibrahim 2, Domenico Borello 1,* and Ahmad El-Kharouf 2,* 1 2 * Correspondence: domenico.borello@uniroma1.it (D.B.); a.el-kharouf@bham.ac.uk (A.E.-K.) Academic Editors: Jean St-Pierre and Shangfeng Du Received: 12 February 2020; Accepted: 3 April 2020; Published: 8 April 2020 Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Sapienza Università di Roma, 00184 Rome, Italy; Gabriele.gagliardi@uniroma1.it School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; AXI763@student.bham.ac.uk Abstract: Nafion membranes are still the dominating material used in the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) technologies. They are widely used in several applications thanks to their excellent properties: high proton conductivity and high chemical stability in both oxidation and reduction environment. However, they have several technical challenges: reactants permeability, which results in reduced performance, dependence on water content to perform preventing the operation at higher temperatures or low humidity levels, and chemical degradation. This paper reviews novel composite membranes that have been developed for PEM applications, including direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), hydrogen PEM fuel cells (PEMFCs), and water electrolysers (PEMWEs), aiming at overcoming the drawbacks of the commercial Nafion membranes. It provides a broad overview of the Nafion-based membranes, with organic and inorganic fillers, and non-fluorinated membranes available in the literature for which various main properties (proton conductivity, crossover, maximum power density, and thermal stability) are reported. The studies on composite membranes demonstrate that they are suitable for PEM applications and can potentially compete with Nafion membranes in terms of performance and lifetime. Keywords: composite membranes; electrolyte; PEM; fuel cells; electrolysers 1. Background During the last 100 years the world average temperature has increased by almost 0.8 ◦C [1], becoming the most critical environmental issue of our time. Even though there are many different factors responsible, the greatest concern is greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities linked to energy production and use. In this sense, governments worldwide are acting to take measures to revise their energy mix by reducing fossil fuels usage and promoting alternative sources. The European Union, with the objectives set in the 20-20-20 pack, put forward strict targets to be reached before 2020, namely 20% reduction of greenhouse gases, 20% primary energy production from renewables, and 20% of biofuels burned in transportation. Moreover, recently a medium-long term strategy was agreed, stating that the European energy efficiency should be improved by 27% and the renewables energy input should increase by up to the 27% of the total share before 2030. Within this overall framework, it is becoming increasingly important that research and development of new technologies are intensified to allow the penetration of more efficient energy conversion systems. In this context, polymer electrolyte membrane technologies can play an important role. 􏰁􏰂􏰃 􏰅􏰆􏰇 􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰌􏰂􏰍 Molecules 2020, 25, 1712; doi:10.3390/molecules25071712 www.mdpi.com/journal/molecules

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