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MONICA SANTAMARIA

Performance of H2-fed fuel cell with chitosan/silicotungstic acid membrane as proton conductor

Abstract

Composite organic–inorganic proton exchange membranes for H2–O2 fuel cells were fabricated by ionotropic gelation process combining a biopolymer (chitosan) with a heteropolyacid (silicotungstic acid). According to scanning electron microscopy analysis, compact, homogeneous and free-standing thin layers were synthesized. X-ray diffraction proved the crystallinity of the fabricated membranes and showed the presence of Chitosan Form I polymorph soon after the reticulation step and of the Form II polymorph after the functionalization step. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy demonstrated that the Keggin structure of the heteropolyacid is maintained inside the membrane even after the fabrication process. These membranes worked properly as proton conductors in a low-temperature (25 °C) fuel cell apparatus using hydrogen as fuel recording a promising power density peak of 268 mW cm−2 with a Pt loading of 0.5 mg cm−2.