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Durable Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA)

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Polarization curves after cycling test of manufacturer’s and LANL’s MEAs.  Curves were obtained at potential cycles from 0.6 to 1.0 V in H2/N2 conditions.  The pt loading was 0.2 and 0.4 mg/cm2.
Polarization curves after cycling test of manufacturer’s and LANL’s MEAs. Curves were obtained at potential cycles from 0.6 to 1.0 V in H2/N2 conditions. The pt loading was 0.2 and 0.4 mg/cm2.

Technology Marketing SummaryThe membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is an essential, yet highly expensive component of any polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell. The LANL method for manufacturing a durable MEA offers significant cost reductions and performance enhancements necessary for mainstream applications. DescriptionConventional polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology, at the forefront of research into cleaner and greener power and energy solutions, suffers from a lack of durability, high manufacturing costs, and rapid performance degradation. These factors overshadow the technology’s potential benefits and have prevented fuel cells from entering the mainstream automobile, portable electronics, and power generation markets in which customers are price sensitive and selective in their purchases of durable goods.

A revolutionary method of building a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) for PEM fuel cells has been developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientists that can significantly increase durability, reduce manufacturing costs, and extend the lifetime of a fuel cell product. This method incorporates a unique polymer dispersion that can be applied to both perfluorinated sulfonic acid (PFSA) and hydrocarbon-based MEAs to produce superior electrode performance, stability, and durability during harsh fuel cell operating conditions.

The LANL-produced MEA has been evaluated and certified using an Accelerated Stress Test (AST) developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in conjunction with car manufacturers. The AST was developed to study the durability of state-of-the-art MEAs and includes challenging performance targets (e.g., voltage losses of 0.8 A/cm2 less than 30 mV after potential cycling from 0.6 to 1.0 V for 30,000 cycles at 80°C). When comparing the results of the AST from a premier manufacturer’s commercially available MEA versus LANL’s novel MEA, the commercially available MEA did not meet the target after 30,000 cycles. However, voltage loss of LANL’s MEA still remained below 30 mV even after 70,000 cycles (see figure). Although the graphs are not shown, results obtained from two other commercially available PFSA dispersions also fell short of the DOE’s target with 48 and 33 mV losses after 30,000 cycles. In addition to this unique polymer dispersion method, the LANL MEA fabrication process utilizes a novel swelling agent that significantly lowers hot pressing temperatures and improves the interfacial stability of the MEA.
BenefitsSignificant improvement in durability over industrial MEAs
Improves interfacial and mechanical bond between catalyst and membrane
Reduces electricity costs related to heating and cooling MEA
Eliminates need for an MEA conditioning/hydrating step after bonding
Requires lower temperature bonding conditions, thus lower cost production equipment
Applications and IndustriesMembrane electrode assembly process
Catalyst adhesion
Membrane production preparation
Perfluorinated sulfonic acid (Nafion™) and hydrocarbon-based MEAs
Sensors and/or electrochemical devices
More InformationPatent Pending Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
S116251; S116252Prototype - Working prototypeAvailable - Los Alamos is seeking partners interested in joint collaborations and/or exclusive or non-exclusive licensing opportunities.07/14/201007/27/2010

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To: Marcus A. Lucero<>