• direct methanol fuel cell;
  • catalyst layer;
  • pore-forming technology;
  • methanol crossover;
  • electrochemical active surface area


BACKGROUND: The commercialization of DMFCs is seriously restricted by its relatively low power density. Lots of work has been concentrated on catalysts with high activity, the optimization of flow path design, development of new kinds of proton exchange membrane and modification of Nafion membrane. Meanwhile, very few reports have involved the structure optimization of the membrane electrode assembly (MEA). To improve the performance of direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), the catalyst layer (CL) structures of anode and cathode were optimized by utilizing ammonium carbonate as pore forming agent.

RESULTS: The polarization curves showed that in catalyst slurry the optimal content of ammonium carbonate was 50 wt%, and the DMFC performance was enhanced from 75.65 mW cm−2 to 167.42 mW cm−2 at 55 °C and 0.2 MPa O2. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and electrochemical active surface area (EASA) testing revealed that the improved performance of optimized MEAs could be mainly attributed to the increasing EASA and the enhanced mass transfer rate of CLs. But poor methanol crossover limited the performance enhancement of MEAs with porous anodes.

CONCLUSION: With regard to improving cell performance, this pore-forming technology is better applied to the cathode catalyst layer to improve its structure rather than the anode catalyst layer. © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry