Neutrons for fuel cell membranes: Structure, sorption and transport properties
Structure et Propriétés d’Architectures Moléculaires, UMR 5819 (CEA-CNRS-UJF), Laboratoire des Polymères Conducteurs Ioniques, INAC/SPrAM, CEA-Grenoble, 38054 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
Revised: 27 September 2012
Published online: 3 December 2012
A molecular level understanding of structure and transport properties in fuel cell ionomer membranes is essential for designing new electrolytes with improved performance. Scattering techniques are suited tools for this purpose. In particular, neutron scattering, which has been extensively used in hydrogen-containing systems, is well adapted to investigate water-dependent complex polymeric morphologies. We report Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) studies on different types of fuel cell polymers: perfluorinated, radiation-grafted and sulfonated polyphosphazene membranes. We show that contrast variation methods can be efficiently employed to provide new insights on membrane microstructure and reveal ionic condensation effects. Neutrons have been used also as non-intrusive diagnosis tool to probe water properties and distribution inside membranes. Recently, in-situ neutronography and SANS experiments on operating fuel cells have been reported. In-plane cartography of water distribution at the surface of bipolar plates and water profiles across membrane thickness have been obtained and studied as a function of operating conditions. The last section of the article is devoted to the use of Quasi-Elastic Neutron Scattering to study water dynamics at molecular scale. We show that analysis with an appropriate sophisticated diffusion model allows to extract diffusion coefficients, characteristic times and length-scales of molecular motions. This quantitative information is fruitfully integrated in multi-scale modelling and usefully compared with numerical simulations. QENS also permits to compare alternative polymers and relate dynamical properties to chemical composition and membrane nanostructure.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2012