Towards a stable ion-solvating polymer electrolyte for advanced alkaline water electrolysis†
Advanced alkaline water electrolysis using ion-solvating polymer membranes as electrolytes represents a new direction in the field of electrochemical hydrogen production. Polybenzimidazole membranes equilibrated in aqueous KOH combine the mechanical robustness and gas-tightness of a polymer with the conductive properties of an aqueous alkaline salt solution, and are thus of particular interest in this field of research. This work presents a comprehensive study of ternary alkaline polymer electrolyte systems developed around a polybenzimidazole derivative that is structurally tailored towards improved stability in alkaline environments. The novel electrolytes are extensively characterized with respect to physicochemical and electrochemical properties and the chemical stability is assessed in 0–50 wt% aqueous KOH for more than 6 months at 88 °C. In water electrolysis tests using porous 3-dimensional electrodes completely free from noble metals, they show polarization characteristics comparable to those of commercially available separators and good performance stability over several days.