Japanese scientists have discovered fuel cells with a new temperature range. The innovative type of fuel cells based on ion-pair-coordinated polymers and can be the connecting element between the operating temperature ranges of low- and high-temperature PEM fuel cells. This discovery can speed up the commercialization processes and application of a different kind of industries, particularly in the automotive sector.

Fuel cells are budding material for clean power production in a different economically and environmentally significant conditions. Low-temperature proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells using Nafion need a high level of hydration that limits the operating temperature to less than 100°C.

There are two main classes of polymer fuel cells. One of them is low-temperature elements, which require water for the conductivity of protons and can not work at temperatures above 100°C. The second type can act at 180°C without water, however, its productivity falls when it is in water absorption conditions below 140°C.

A scientific group from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in cooperation with Yoong-Kee Choe from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan and Cy Fujimoto from Sandia National Laboratories had found that fuel cells containing ion pairs with ammonium phosphate and can act at temperature of  80°C to 200°C with or without water, that increases the applicability of the fuel cell in a number of cases.

The team have found that ionic pairs with ammonium phosphate have much stronger bonds (8.7 times stronger than normal acid bonds), which allow the effective proton transport even in water absorption conditions. The innovational PEM fuel cells based on quaternary ammonium-biphosphate ion pairs that can operate under conditions unattainable with existing fuel cell technologies.

Scientists convince that the production and durability of the novel class of fuel cells can be increased even more with the help of efficient electrode materials. Consequently, in 5-10 years it will replace the current low-temperature fuel cells.

Yu Seung Kim mentioned that team made this novel discovery when they were studying alkaline hydroxide conducting membranes that have quaternary ammonium groups. Moreover, the alkaline membranes usually work under high pH circumstances. Consequently, scientists decided that alkaline membranes can be used under low pH conditions by connecting them with phosphoric acid. The very exciting phase of there research was when Yoong-Kee Choe made the calculation data which was demonstrated the cooperation between biphosphate and ammonium is 8.7 times powerful than than standard acid-base interaction.