One of the critical challenges in making proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells commercially viable is the inability of Nafion (the most used PEM) to conduct protons at low water content level. Both external humidifier and physical seal of the fixture in commercial products increase the cost and complexity of the whole system. Therefore, we have designed a novel Pt-clay nanocatalyst and developed a Pt-clay/Nafion nanocomposite membrane to significantly enhanced proton conductivity without any external humidification. In this study, monolayer of Pt nanoparticles of diameters of 2-3 nm with a high crystallinity were successfully anchored onto exfoliated nanoclay surfaces using a novel chemical vapor deposition process. Chemical bonding of Pt to the oxygen on the clay surface ensured the stability of the Pt nanoparticles, and hence, no leaching of Pt particles was observed after a prolonged ultrasonication and a rigorous mechanical agitation of Ptclay in the Nafion solution during the membrane casting process. Planar and hygroscopic clay reduced fuel crossover and balanced the water content. In situ water production for humidification of the dry membranes without any external humidification was characterized by a combined water uptake and FTIR analysis of the as-prepared membrane after a single cell testing without using electrodes. The power density at 0.5 V of a single cell made of a Pt-clay/Nafion nanocomposite membrane was 723 mW/cm2, which is 170 % higher than that made of a commercial Nafion 112 membrane of similar thickness.
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Nordic Conference on Ceramic and Glass Technology, 2012