Anion exchange membranes: Current status and moving forward

Michael A. Hickner, Andrew M. Herring, E. Bryan Coughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

281 Scopus citations

Abstract

This short review is meant to provide the reader with highlights in anion exchange membrane research, describe current needs in the field, and point out promising directions for future work. Anion exchange membranes (AEMs) provide one possible route to low platinum or platinum-free fuel cells with the potential for facile oxidation of complex fuels beyond hydrogen and methanol. AEMs and related stable cationic polymers also have applications in energy storage and other electrochemical technologies such as water electrolyzers and redox flow batteries. While anion exchange membranes have been known for a long time in water treatment applications, materials for electrochemical technology with robust mechanical properties in thin film format have only recently become more widely available. High hydroxide and bicarbonate anion conductivity have been demonstrated in a range of AEM formats, but intrinsic stability of the polymers and demonstration of long device lifetime remain major roadblocks. Novel approaches to stable materials have focused on new types of cations that employ delocalization and steric shielding of the positive center to mitigate nucleophilic attack by hydroxide. A number of promising polymer backbones and membrane architectures have been identified, but limited device testing and a lack of understanding of the degradation mechanisms in operating devices is slowing progress on engineered systems with alkaline fuel cell technology. Our objective is to spur more research in this area to develop fuel cell systems that approach the costs of inexpensive batteries for large-scale applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1727-1735
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Polymer Science, Part B: Polymer Physics
Volume51
Issue number24
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 15 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry

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