Penn Engineering professor received a $2.2 million grant to research fuel cell technology.
A Penn engineering professor has received $2.2 million from the Department of Energy to fund research to synthesize cleaner, more efficient fuel cell technology.
Karen Winey – Harold Pender Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering – is currently working on a project to design a new fluorine-free polymer to address fluorine-based polymers used to convert hydrogen into electricity toxicity, according to a Penn Engineering blog post.
With the DOE grant, which will be distributed over three years, Winey’s team will be able to reveal “a finer-grained picture of the internal structure of these polymers, illuminating the fundamental role of water in determining their ion transport properties.” .
Karen wine Harold Pender Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering told Penn Engineering, he said:
Only through this highly coordinated effort can a detailed understanding of how protons and hydroxide ions move in hydrated polymers is possible.
According to the blog post, fuel cells are becoming increasingly important as the demand for electricity continues to grow. The power of fuel cells is their ability to convert large amounts of hydrogen into sufficient electricity — enough to serve as emergency reserves for homes or to power vehicles — without producing carbon emissions.
The electrolyte composition of a fuel cell determines how quickly the cell’s fuel is converted to energy and also insulates the electrodes from each other.
Currently, Nafion is the leading solid polymer electrolyte in fuel cells, according to an August 2021 Penn Engineering blog post. However, Nafion’s fluorine-based chemistry is expensive and toxic to the environment, making it costly.
As governments around the world consider proposals to ban fluorine-based polymers, Winey set out to address this challenge by using fluorine-free polymers with “precisely positioned sulfonic acid groups.”
When in contact with water, the sulfonate groups are able to assemble into fully connected pathways, forming complex water channels for protons to flow through. According to Penn Engineering, these channels can be further expanded simply by exposing the polymer to moisture.
The DOE grant will fund a collaboration between Penn’s Winey Labs, Sandia National Laboratories, Penn State University and Florida State University.
The grant follows an August 2021 collaborative project that includes members of the Winey Lab, Sandia National Laboratories Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, and Florida State University. The team then showed that the proton conductivity of a new fluorine-free polymer increased with water content and surpassed that of Nafion.
While this is a promising discovery, further research is needed to ensure the viability of the new polymer, Penn Engineering said.
This collaborative DOE grant is the second that Winey has received in recent years. As reported by Penn Engineering, in August 2022, Winey and collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Massachusetts Amherst were awarded a $3.25 million grant to focus on developing polymer-to-polymer conversion to reduce polymer waste.
Winey also received the 2023 Polymer Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society “for outstanding contributions to the understanding and advancement of polymer nanocomposites and ion-containing polymers, particularly structural control and transport dynamics.” 9.
ACS is one of the world’s largest scientific organizations, with more than 151,000 members in 140 countries, and its mission is to “advance the wider chemical enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of the planet and its people.”
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Penn engineering professor awarded $2.2 million in fuel cell technology research grant, October 13, 2022