Designing new renewable nano-structured electrode and membrane materials for direct alkaline ethanol fuel cell

The NanoElMem project presents an innovative approach towards the design and fabrication of materials for the creation of direct alkaline ethanol fuel cells (DAEFC). Emphasis was put on the development of platinum (Pt)-free anode catalysts and nano-composite membranes, where environmentally friendly and sustainable polysaccharides and inorganic materials were employed. The vast potential of graphene, from a scientific and applied point of view, was harnessed as an active component in polysaccharide-based nanocomposite membranes. In order to arrive at an innovative and efficient product by the end of the project’s run, the work-plan has been constructed around the current technical obstacles, that limit full implementation of fuel cells in a commercial scale; by directly addressing these limitations, i.e. cost, performance and durability.Reducing the costs of existing fuel cells was achieved by development of highly active ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR) catalysts and noble metal free oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts. Catalysts synthesis routes were published in three high-impact journals:•    LI, Yahao et al., 2021, Boost oxygen reduction reaction performance by tuning the active sites in Fe-N-P-C catalysts, Journal of Energy Chemistry,,•    LI, Yahao et al, 2019, Sustainable and Atomically Dispersed Iron Electrocatalysts Derived from Nitrogen‐ and Phosphorus‐Modified Woody Biomass for Efficient Oxygen Reduction, Advanced Material Interfaces, and•    LI, Yahao et al., 2019, Atomically dispersed Fe-N-P-C complex electrocatalysts for superior oxygen reduction, Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, terms of performance, DAEFCs struggle mainly with relatively low power density. This major technical problem was tackled by the design of ion-exchange membranes with enhanced efficiency and durability while maintaining low costs. Here, bio-based polysaccharide polymers were used, which served as the matrix for newly synthesized (N)-doped and quaternized graphene oxide (GO) nano-fillers, which improved membrane ion conductivity, thermal and mechanical stability, and prevented ethanol crossover through cross-linked membranes.

Membrane preparation and characteristic were presented in publication: Barbara, Kaker et al, 2019, Novel chitosan-Mg(OH)2 based nanocomposite membranes for direct alkaline ethanol fuel cells, ACS sustainable chemistry & engineering, doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.9b02888.In course of the project, SME Abalonyx has developed a new nitrogen doped graphene oxide, of which preparation has been standardized and a protocol for larger scale preparation is being prepared. The product will be launched for sale in October 2020 through Abalonyx online offerings and through distributors in UK, Japan and USA. The product will not be patented, the preparation method is being kept as trade secret.Project resulted in 4 published scientific articles in high-impact journals, 21 conference contributions, of which 5 were invited lectures. Currently 2 articles are under revision, among them one is review article on the topic of anion exchange membranes and 2 articles in preparation phase.

Project Details

Publication date 2020/10/12
Call Topic Multifunctional materials (Call 2016)
Duration in months 39
  • University of Maribor (UM), Slovenia (Coordinator)
  • University of Nova Gorica (UNG), Slovenia (Partner)
  • Abalonyx, Norway (Partner)
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway (Partner)
  • Chang Gung University, Taiwan (Partner)
Total project cost 859.918,00 €
Contact University of Maribor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering

Smetanova ulica 17, 2000 Maribor

Dr. Mojca Božič