A Korean research team has succeeded in localizing a core material for next-generation fuel cells.
The Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT) announced on July 30 that a research team led by Dr. Lee Jang-yong has developed a new technology to manufacture anion exchange materials (electrode binders and separators) for anion exchange membrane fuel cells, a next-generation fuel cell, and transferred the technology to SDB, a Korean company.
Anion exchange membrane fuel cells are gaining popularity as they can be used to significantly reduce manufacturing costs compared to conventional cation exchange membrane fuel cells. Competition to develop this type of fuel cells is underway among Germany, Japan, the United States and Canada. No Korean company has yet secured the technology to commercially produce the fuel cells. Korea is relying entirely on imports from Pumatech in Germany and Tokuyama in Japan.
The research team transferred the technology to produce binders and separators. A binder combines powdered electrodes in a fuel cell and forms a channel through which ions can move within an electrode layer, while a separator selectively transfers anions from an anode to a cathode with a solid electrolyte.
At present, cation exchange membrane fuel cells are widely used because they have good performance and durability, but they are expensive as they need expensive platinum as catalysts. Anion exchange membrane fuel cells, on the other hand, can reduce manufacturing costs by using inexpensive metal catalysts such as nickel and copper. However, the latter is inferior to the former in terms of performance and durability.
The anion-exchange membrane fuel cell developed by the team has ionic conductivity three times higher than conventional commercial materials and has excellent chemical stability. It can be applied to uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) which do not require high durability as its performance is as good as that of cation exchange membrane fuel cells and its durability is somewhat lower than that of cation exchange membrane fuel cells. It can also be widely used for water electrolysis, redox flow cells and carbon dioxide conversion technology.