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CAPSTONE SENIOR DESIGN - SUPRAMOLECULAR PROTON EXCHANGE MEMBRANES FOR FUEL CELLS
In order to assume a leading role in the burgeoning hydrogen economy, new infrastructure will be required for fuel cell manufacturing and R&D capabilities. The objective of this proposal is the development of a new generation of advanced proton exchange membrane (PEM) technologies, based on advances in supra molecular chemistry and engineering, which will serve as the foundation for the development of PEM based membrane electrode assemblies (MEA's) and ultimately, fuel cells. PEM's are the most widely used membranes for fuel cell applications because of their low operating temperature and high power density. Sulfonated fluorocarbon membranes such as NafionTM, are currently the only standard membranes used in the industry, but factors like the cost of production and poor environmental resistance have led to the investigation of novel membranes. The goal of this proposal is the development of a new generation of PEM's, which offer advantages over the Nafion PEM's and can be used in the fabrication of prototype MEA's and fuel cells. This is the first time that supra molecular structures based on ionomeric polyimide, polybenzimidazole and polyoxazole copolymers and surfactants will be used for the synthesis of directional proton exchange membranes. The Polymer Science and Engineering (PS&E) Laboratory, Applied Surfactant Research Laboratory (ASRL) at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), have the synthesis, characterization instrumentation and device design capabilities needed to carry out this investigation. The outcome of this work will result in a new supra molecular PEM which will have high proton conductivity and be environmentally resistant. A major obstacle in the emerging area of energy storage and delivery will be overcome.