Spakowitz Research Group

Theory and Computation of Biological Processes and Soft Materials

Microstructure of Fuel Cell Membranes

Ion exchange membrane (IEM) fuel cells constitute an enticing alternative energy source whose operation generates water rather than more harmful carbon-based emissions. Hydrogen fuel is split at the anode into protons and electrons. The electrons pass from anode to cathode through an external circuit, and the protons migrate between the electrodes through a IEM. At the cathode, the protons and electrons combine with oxygen, generating water and completing the electrochemical cycle. The IEM is one of the critical determinants of the performance of the fuel cell device, since ion transport between the two electrodes is the rate-limiting factor in determining the current through the external circuit. Our research group uses a combination of analytical theory and computational modeling to predict the morphology of polymer membranes, and we validate our model to provide theoretical guidance for optimizing the performance of IEM materials.