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Concept: Fuel cells


Microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology is a promising technology for electricity production together with simultaneous water treatment. Catalysts play an important role in deciding the MFC performance. In most reports, effect of catalyst - both type and quantity is not optimized. In this paper, synthesis of nanorods of MnO2-catalyst particles for application in Pt-free MFCs is reported. The effect of catalyst loading i.e., weight ratio, with respect to conducting element and binder has been optimized by employing large number of combinations. Using simple theoretical model, it is shown that too high (or low) concentration of catalysts result in loss of MFC performance. The operation of MFC has been investigated using domestic wastewater as source of bio-waste for obtaining real world situation. Maximum power density of ∼61mW/m(2) was obtained when weight ratio of catalyst and conducting species was 1:1. Suitable reasons are given to explain the outcomes.

Concepts: Energy development, Electric power, Water, Fuel cells, Electrochemistry, Glossary of fuel cell terms, Fuel cell, Microbial fuel cell


Fuel cell is an electrochemical device which converts chemical energy stored in a fuel into electrical energy. Fuel cells have been receiving attention due to its potential applicability as a good alternative power source. Recently, cost-effective and eco-friendly biopolymer chitosan has been extensively studied as a material for membrane electrolytes and electrodes in low to intermediate temperature hydrogen polymer electrolyte fuel cell, direct methanol fuel cell, alkaline fuel cell, and biofuel cell. This paper reviews structure and property of chitosan with respect to its applications in fuel cells. Recent achievements and prospect of its applications have also been included.

Concepts: Physical chemistry, Fuel cells, Electrode, Electrolysis, Battery, Electrolyte, Fuel cell, Electrochemistry


Owing to the serious crossover of methanol from the anode to the cathode through the polymer electrolyte membrane, direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) usually use dilute methanol solutions as fuel. However, the use of high-concentration methanol is highly demanded to improve the energy density of a DMFC system. Instead of the conventional strategies (for example, improving the fuel-feed system, membrane development, modification of electrode, and water management), we demonstrate the use of selective electrocatalysts to run a DMFC at high concentrations of methanol. In particular, at an operating temperature of 80°C, the as-fabricated DMFC with core-shell-shell Au@Ag2S@Pt nanocomposites at the anode and core-shell Au@Pd nanoparticles at the cathode produces a maximum power density of 89.7 mW cm(-2) at a methanol feed concentration of 10 M and maintains good performance at a methanol concentration of up to 15 M. The high selectivity of the electrocatalysts achieved through structural construction accounts for the successful operation of the DMFC at high concentrations of methanol.

Concepts: Glossary of fuel cell terms, Direct methanol fuel cell, Membrane electrode assembly, Electrolysis, Fuel cells, Electrolyte, Battery, Electrochemistry


To produce an anion conductive and durable polymer electrolyte for alkaline fuel cell applications, a series of quaternized poly(2,6-dimethyl phenylene oxide) containing long alkyl side chains pendant to the nitrogen-centered cation were synthesized using a Menshutkin reaction to form comb-shaped structures. The pendant alkyl chains were responsible for the development of highly conductive ionic domains, as confirmed by small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). The comb-shaped polymers having one alkyl side chain showed higher hydroxide conductivities than those with benzyltrimethyl ammonium moieties or structures with more than one alkyl side chain per cationic site. The highest conductivity was observed for comb-shaped polymers with benzyldimethylhexadecyl cationic centers. The chemical stabilities of the comb-shaped membranes were evaluated under severe, accelerated-aging conditions, and minor degradation was observed by measuring IEC and ion conductivity changes during aging. The comb-shaped membranes retained their high ion conductivity in 1 M NaOH at 80 °C for 2000 h. These cationic polymers were employed as ionomers in catalyst layers for alkaline fuel cells. The results indicated that the C-16 alkyl side chain ionomer had slightly better initial performance in spite of its low IEC value, but very poor durability in the fuel cell. In contrast, 90 % of the initial performance was retained for the alkaline fuel cell with electrodes containing the C-6 side chain after 60 h of fuel cell operation.

Concepts: Fuel cells, Cathode, Electrolyte, Chemistry, Polymer, Fuel cell, Ion, Electrochemistry


Low durability of polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) is a major drawback that should be solved. Recent studies have revealed that leaching of liquid phosphoric acid (PA) from both polymer electrolyte membrane and catalyst layers causes inhomogeneous PA distribution that results in deterioration of PEFC performance during long-term operation. Here we describe the finding that a novel PEFC free from acid leaching shows remarkable high durability (single cell test: >400,000 cycling) together with a high power density at 120°C under a non-humidified condition. This is achieved by using a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) with Pt on poly(vinylphosphonic acid)-doped polybenzimidazole wrapped on carbon nanotube and poly(vinylphosphonic acid)-doped polybenzimidazole for the electrocatalst and electrolyte membrane, respectively. Such a high performance PEFC opens the door for the next-generation PEFC for “real world” use.

Concepts: Battery, Fuel cells, Carbon nanotube, Electrolyte, Electrode, Fuel cell, Electrochemistry, Membrane electrode assembly


In this work we presented a general strategy for the fabrication of membranes with well-defined ions transport channels through solvent-responsive layer-by-layer assembly (SR-LBL). Multilayered poly (diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDDA) and poly (acrylic acid) (PAA) complexes were first introduced on the inner pore wall and the surface of sulfonated poly (ether ether ketone)/poly (ether sulfone) (PES/SPEEK) nanofiltration membranes to form ions transport channels with tuned radius. This type of membranes are highly efficient for the separators of batteries especially vanadium flow batteries (VFBs): the VFBs assembled with prepared membranes exhibit an outstanding performance in a wide current density range, which is much higher than that assembled with commercial Nafion 115 membranes. This idea could inspire the development of membranes for other flow battery systems, as well as create further progress in similar areas such as fuel cells, electro-dialysis, chlor-alkali cells, water electrolysis and so on.

Concepts: Fuel cells, Hydrogen, Glossary of fuel cell terms, Electric batteries, Chlorine, Electrolysis, Fuel cell, Water


Chemically modified single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with varying degrees of functionalization were utilized for the fabrication of SWNT thin film catalyst support layers (CSLs) in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which were suitable for benchmarking against the US DOE 2017 targets. Use of the optimum level of SWNT -COOH functionality allowed the construction of a prototype SWNT-based PEMFC with total Pt loading of 0.06 mgPt/cm(2) - well below the value of 0.125 mgPt/cm(2) set as the US DOE 2017 technical target for total Pt group metals (PGM) loading. This prototype PEMFC also approaches the technical target for the total Pt content per kW of power (<0.125 gPGM/kW) at cell potential 0.65 V: a value of 0.15 gPt/kW was achieved at 80°C/22 psig testing conditions, which was further reduced to 0.12 gPt/kW at 35 psig back pressure.

Concepts: Membrane electrode assembly, Carbon, Fuel cells, Nafion, Fuel cell, Electrochemistry, Proton exchange membrane fuel cell, Carbon nanotube


The microbial fuel cell (MFC) has emerged as a promising technology for wastewater treatment and energy recovery, but the expensive cost of proton exchange membranes (PEMs) is a problem that need to be solved. In this study, a two-chamber MFC based on our self-made PEM sulfonated poly (ether ether ketone) membrane was set up to treat phenol/acetone wastewater and synchronously generate power. The maximum output voltage was 240-250 mV. Using phenol and acetone as substrates, the power generation time in an operation cycle was 289 h. The MFC exhibited good removal performance, with no phenol or acetone detected, respectively, when the phenol concentration was lower than 50 mg/L and the acetone concentration was lower than 100 mg/L. This study provides a cheap and eco-friendly way to treat phenol/acetone wastewater and generate useful energy by MFC technology.

Concepts: Microbial fuel cell, Nafion, Acetone, Fuel cells, Fuel cell, Proton exchange membrane, Electrochemistry, Proton exchange membrane fuel cell


The removal of antibiotics is crucial for improvement of water quality in animal wastewater treatment. In this paper, the performance of microbial fuel cell (MFC) in terms of degradation of typical antibiotics was investigated. Electricity was successfully produced by using sludge supernatant mixtures and synthesized animal wastewater as inoculation in MFC. Results demonstrated that the stable voltage, the maximum power density and internal resistance of anaerobic self-electrolysis (ASE) -112 and ASE-116 without antibiotics addition were 0.574 V, 5.78 W m-3 and 28.06 Ω, and 0.565 V, 5.82 W m-3 and 29.38 Ω, respectively. Moreover, when adding aureomycin, sulfadimidine, roxithromycin and norfloxacin into the reactors, the performance of MFC was inhibited (0.51 V-0.41 V), while the output voltage was improved with the decreased concentration of antibiotics. However, the removal efficiency of ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) and total phosphorus (TP) were both obviously enhanced. Simultaneously, LC-MS analysis showed that the removal efficiency of aureomycin, roxithromycin and norfloxacin were all 100% and the removal efficiency of sulfadimidine also reached 99.9%. These results indicated that antibiotics displayed significantly inhibitions for electricity performance but improved the quality of water simultaneously.

Concepts: Water pollution, Fuel cells, Sewage, Bacteria, Glossary of fuel cell terms, Fuel cell, Microbial fuel cell, Water


Cellulose nanofibers were embedded into sulfonated poly (ether sulfone) matrix to heighten the water retention and proton conductivity of proton exchange membranes (PEMs). Cellulose nanofibers were obtained by hydrolyzing cellulose acetate nanofibers, which were prepared via electrostatic-induction-assisted solution blow spinning. Morphology, thermal stability, and mechanical properties of the PEMs were investigated. The results showed that proton conductivity, water uptake, and methanol permeability of the composite membranes were improved. Hydrophilicity of the composite membranes was gradually improved with the addition of nanofibers. When the content of nanofibers was 5 wt%, the highest proton conductivity was 0.13 S/cm (80 °C, 100% RH). Therefore, the cellulose nanofiber could be used as support materials to enhance the performance of proton exchange membranes, the composite membranes have potential application in Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs).

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Fuel cells, Acetic acid, Cell membrane, Cellulose acetate, Methanol, Proton exchange membrane, Proton exchange membrane fuel cell