Vapor-fed microfluidic hydrogen generator†
Water-splitting devices that operate with humid air feeds are an attractive alternative for hydrogen production as the required water input can be obtained directly from ambient air. This article presents a novel proof-of-concept microfluidic platform that makes use of polymeric ion conductor (Nafion®) thin films to absorb water from air and performs the electrochemical water-splitting process. Modelling and experimental tools are used to demonstrate that these microstructured devices can achieve the delicate balance between water, gas, and ionic transport processes required for vapor-fed devices to operate continuously and at steady state, at current densities above 3 mA cm−2. The results presented here show that factors such as the thickness of the Nafion films covering the electrodes, convection of air streams, and water content of the ionomer can significantly affect the device performance. The insights presented in this work provide important guidelines for the material requirements and device designs that can be used to create practical electrochemical hydrogen generators that work directly under ambient air.