Duration: 01/06/2017 → 31/05/2020

Proposed project targets to provide novel scientific and technological concepts and efficient solutions in the development of fuel cells, which have been identified as the key technology in a global effort to secure clean energy industry of the future. Fuel cells directly convert chemical energy stored in fuels into electrical energy through electrochemical reactions, and as such hold a great potential for the development of alternative and sustainable energy systems.

The “NanoElMem” project presents an innovative approach towards the design and fabrication of materials for the creation of direct alkaline ethanol fuel cells (DAEFC). Emphasis is put here on the development of platinum (Pt)-free anode catalysts and nano-composite membranes, where environmentally friendly and sustainable polysaccharides and inorganic materials will be employed. The vast potential of graphene, from a scientific and applied point of view, will be harnessed as an active component in polysaccharide-based nanocomposite membranes. Partners in the project consortium have devised a systematic work-plan consisting of R&D activities that will fully encompass the entire development procedure of the novel fuel cell, from design to the actual fabrication of the prototype.

Reducing the costs of existing fuel cells will be achieved by development of Pt free bimetallic ethanol oxidation catalysts and metal free oxygen reduction catalysts, which will aid in diminishing the need for expensive noble metals (i.e. Pt), representing the majority of the cost. Emphasis will be placed on devising catalyst systems with Ni and/or Pd bimetallic catalysts and their implementation in ethanol oxidation reactions, and N and P doped carbon coupling with Fe or Co catalyst for oxygen reduction reactions.

In terms of performance, DAEFCs struggle mainly with relatively low power density. This major technical problem will be tackled by the design of ion-exchange membranes with enhanced efficiency and durability while maintaining low costs; here, bio-based polysaccharide polymers will be used, which will serve as the matrix for newly synthesized (N)-doped and/or quaternized graphene oxide (GO) nano-fillers, which will improve membrane ion conductivity, thermal and mechanical stability, and prevent ethanol crossover through cross-linked membranes.

Another important issue, which will be systematically studied will be the membrane electrode assemblies themselves.