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Enhanced Durability of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells by Functionalized 2D Boron Nitride Nanoflakes

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journal contribution
posted on 28.05.2014, 00:00 by Keun-Hwan Oh, Dongju Lee, Min-Ju Choo, Kwang Hyun Park, Seokwoo Jeon, Soon Hyung Hong, Jung-Ki Park, Jang Wook Choi
We report boron nitride nanoflakes (BNNFs), for the first time, as a nanofiller for polymer electrolyte membranes in fuel cells. Utilizing the intrinsic mechanical strength of two-dimensional (2D) BN, addition of BNNFs even at a marginal content (0.3 wt %) significantly improves mechanical stability of the most representative hydrocarbon-type (HC-type) polymer electrolyte membrane, namely sulfonated poly­(ether ether ketone) (sPEEK), during substantial water uptake through repeated wet/dry cycles. For facile processing with BNNFs that frequently suffer from poor dispersion in most organic solvents, we non-covalently functionalized BNNFs with 1-pyrenesulfonic acid (PSA). Besides good dispersion, PSA supports efficient proton transport through its sulfonic functional groups. Compared to bare sPEEK, the composite membrane containing BNNF nanofiller exhibited far improved long-term durability originating from enhanced dimensional stability and diminished chronic edge failure. This study suggests that introduction of properly functionalized 2D BNNFs is an effective strategy in making various HC-type membranes sustainable without sacrificing their original adventurous properties in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.