Polymer electrolyte membranes (PEMs) are a key component to fuel cells as they allow the transport of protons to aid in the production of electricity. The PEM must be durable at a wide temperature and humidity range, yet must be thin and flexible. In order to be viable the PEM must insoluble in water and have high proton conductivity. The most commonly used PEM today is Nafion®, a very temperature restrictive and costly membrane. To combat these negative features our research investigates inorganic-organic hybrid materials based upon polysiloxanes. PEMs are synthesized from select combination of hydrophilic and hydrophobic organosilane precursors. In addition, we investigate Nafion/polysiloxane composite membrane materials.
Physical and electrochemical methods such as thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), infrared spectroscopy (IR), mass spectroscopy (MS), and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy are commonly employed to determine structure-property relations for the new materials. Many of our new materials meet or exceed the proton conductivity of Nafion and have great potential for high temperature fuel cell applications.