Optimized Anion Exchange Membranes for Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries

In order to understand the properties of low vanadium permeability anion exchange membranes for vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs), quaternary ammonium functionalized Radel (QA-Radel) membranes with three ion exchange capacities (IECs) from 1.7 to 2.4 mequiv g–1 were synthesized and 55–60 μm thick membrane samples were evaluated for their transport properties and in-cell battery performance. The ionic conductivity and vanadium permeability of the membranes were investigated and correlated to the battery performance through measurements of Coulombic efficiency, voltage efficiency and energy efficiency in single cell tests, and capacity fade during cycling. Increasing the IEC of the QA-Radel membranes increased both the ionic conductivity and VO2+ permeability. The 1.7 mequiv g–1 IEC QA-Radel had the highest Coulombic efficiency and best cycling capacity maintenance in the VRFB, while the cell’s voltage efficiency was limited by the membrane’s low ionic conductivity. Increasing the IEC resulted in higher voltage efficiency for the 2.0 and 2.4 mequiv g–1 samples, but the cells with these membranes displayed reduced Coulombic efficiency and faster capacity fade. The QA-Radel with an IEC of 2.0 mequiv g–1 had the best balance of ionic conductivity and VO2+ permeability, achieving a maximum power density of 218 mW cm–2 which was higher than the maximum power density of a VRFB assembled with a Nafion N212 membrane in our system. While anion exchange membranes are under study for a variety of VRFB applications, this work demonstrates that the material parameters must be optimized to obtain the maximum cell performance.