The fuel cells and hydrogen materials and devices research programme at AIME has been developed over the past 15 years and currently encompasses activities on materials and cell developments for proton exchange membrane and proton ceramic fuel cells, PEM and alkaline electrolysis and hydrogen generation from liquid fuels as well as hydrogen sensors. One driver for this research is the future use of fuel cells in automotive and stationary applications, and the group plays a particularly active role in the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (Joint Technology Initiative).
In one aspect of our current work, we are developing membrane materials adapted for use in the low, intermediate and high temperature PEMFC ranges, where we are focussing on recognised bottlenecks: insufficient mechanical stability of low equivalent weight perfluorosulfonic acid ionomers, lack of membrane materials for the intermediate temperature range at low relative humidity, insufficient durability of high temperature PEMFC membranes. ANR, FCH-JU and FP7 FET funding under projects MAESTRO, QuasiDry, DURAMET and EUBECELL support these activities.
In a second aspect, we are developing alternative low dimensional catalyst support material architectures for inorganic oxides, nitrides and carbides, through templating routes and novel deposition approaches. The use of electrospinning as a simple, versatile, cost-effective and up-scaleable approach allowing the fabrication of one dimensional mesostructured organic, inorganic and hybrid nanomaterials of controlled hierarchical features for membrane, electrode and complete MEA development is the objective of the ERC Starting Grant SPINAM. These architectures are being used as supports for deposition of thin, contiguous and conformal films of extended platinum surfaces by using atomic layer deposition, with the aim of achieving the high mass activities not achievable at ultra-low Pt loading with conventional particulate platinum (FCH-JU CATAPULT).
The group’s activities on novel catalyst concepts has been extended recently to the use of non-platinum group metals, where our developments build on current work highlighting the importance of the carbon/nitrogen support: its origin, micropore characteristics and nature of the coordination sites, for which local probing using Fe Mössbauer and X-ray absorption spectroscopies, and experimental determination of the support surface energy and complexed metal-ion adsorption characteristics are under investigation and supported by the ANR Chair of Excellence CAFERINNO.
Proton ceramic fuel cells (PCFC) are an increasingly viable option for reducing the temperature of operation of solid oxide fuel cells to 400-700 °C. Excellent recent results have led us to envisage the integration of novel ceramic membranes and electrodes in a PCFC stack with scale-up in collaboration with EDF and French ceramics industry (FCH-JU METPROCELL). Current activities are dedicated to design of anode ceramic architectures of targeted hierarchical porosity characteristics, and their use as cell supports.
Participation in projects on PEM electrolysis uses our experience in high temperature and mechanically strong polymer membranes (FP7 ITN SUSHGEN, FCH-JU ElectroHyPEM), while a research on low temperature electrolysis in aqueous electrolytes for the co-generation of H2 and O2 to be used as fuel in flame welding is supported by a co-funded Energy Agency (ADEME) studentship, and involves the SME Bulane. The aim here is to fabricate self-supported composite electrodes based on mesostructured/porous materials for improvement of the Coulombic efficiency of gas production and for a miniaturization of the complete device.
The area of porous carbides, already explored in the context of high temperature PEMFC, are being considered as precursors of carbons showing hierarchical porosity for electrochemical carbide-derived carbon applications, more particularly supercapacitors.