Sulfonated graphene oxide/Nafion composite membranes for high temperature and low humidity proton exchange membrane fuel cells†
Iron oxide (Fe3O4) nanoparticles anchored over sulfonated graphene oxide (SGO) and Nafion/Fe3O4–SGO composites were fabricated and applied as potential proton exchange membranes in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) operated at high temperature and low humidity. Fe3O4 nanoparticles bridge SGO and Nafion through electrostatic interaction/hydrogen bonding and increased the intrinsic thermal and mechanical stabilities of Nafion/Fe3O4–SGO composite membranes. Nafion/Fe3O4–SGO composite membranes increased the compactness of ionic domains and enhanced the water absorption and proton conductivity while restricting hydrogen permeability across the membranes. The proton conductivity of Nafion/Fe3O4–SGO (3 wt%) composite membrane at 120 °C under 20% relative humidity (RH) was 11.62 mS cm−1, which is 4.74 fold higher than that of a pristine recast Nafion membrane. PEMFC containing the Nafion/Fe3O4–SGO composite membrane delivered a peak power density of 258.82 mW cm−2 at a load current density of 640.73 mA cm−2 while operating at 120 °C under 25% RH and ambient pressure. In contrast, under identical operating conditions, a peak power density of only 144.89 mW cm−2 was achieved with the pristine recast Nafion membrane at a load current density of 431.36 mA cm−2. Thus, Nafion/Fe3O4–SGO composite membranes can be used to address various critical problems associated with commercial Nafion membranes in PEMFC applications.