Synthesis and Evaluation of Graphene for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Components

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Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) is one of the challenging energy conversion devices for transportation and distributed power generation systems due to its attractive features such as high power density, low operating temperature, minimal emissions, negligible noise, and high efficiency. The material selection plays a pivotal role on the performance of a fuel cell. Therefore, number of materials has been investigated in recent past for the development of efficient PEMFC components. The carbon is the key material for PEMFC component due to its unique electrical and structural properties. Carbon is used to develop various components of the PEMFC such as bipolar plate, carbon paper (gas diffusion layer), microporous layer, and electrocatalst support. The success of the PEMFC technology is largely influenced by bipolar plate as well as electrocatalyst support apart from other components. The development of carbon-polymer composite bipolar plates for PEMFC is an important research area for materials scientists owing to its low density, good corrosion resistance, good flexibility, and ease in machining or in-situ molding of flow fields during processing as compared to pure graphite and metal. The natural graphite (NG) generally is used as primary reinforcement for polymer composite. However, the NG/polymer composite bipolar plate does not possess the properties suggested by various organizations (e.g., DoE and Plug Power Inc.). Therefore, researchers and scientists are using different type of reinforcements such as carbon black (CB) and carbon fiber (CF) into the NG/polymer composite to enhance the properties of bipolar plate. It is reported that the overall properties of NG/polymer composites are increased owing to incorporation of small amount of CB in expense of NG. However, the mechanical strength and through-plane electrical conductivity of the composite bipolar plate do not meet the stringent target. Moreover, it is found that the mechanical strength significantly improves due to the reinforcement of small amount of CF in to the CB/NG/polymer composite in expense of NG content.
Supervisor: Anil Verma