Superacid-doped polybenzimidazole-decorated carbon nanotubes: a novel high-performance proton exchange nanocomposite membrane
Here we demonstrate design and electrochemical characterization of novel proton exchange membranes based on Nafion and superacid-doped polymer coated carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Polybenzimidazole-decorated CNT (PBI-CNT), a high-performance proton exchange nanostructure, was doped using phosphotungstic acid (PWA) as a super proton conductor. The engineered nanohybrid structure was shown to retain water molecules and provide high proton conduction at low humidity and elevated temperatures. The developed complex nanomaterial was then incorporated into the Nafion matrix to fabricate nanocomposite membranes. The acid–base interactions between imidazole groups of PBI and sulfonate groups of Nafion facilitate proton conductivity, especially at elevated temperatures. The improved characteristics of the membranes at the nanoscale result in enhanced fuel cell power generation capacity (386 mW cm−2) at elevated temperatures and low humidity (40% R.H.), which was found to be considerably higher than the commercial Nafion®117 membrane (73 mW cm−2).