Journal of Power Sources, Vol.317, 143-152, 2016
Highly efficient sulfonated polybenzimidazole as a proton exchange membrane for microbial fuel cells
Although microbial fuel cells (MFCs) represent a promising bio-energy technology with a dual advantage (i.e., electricity production and waste-water treatment), their low power densities and high installation costs are major impediments. To address these bottlenecks and replace highly expensive Nafion, which is a proton exchange membrane (PEM), the current study focuses for the first time on membranes made from an easily synthesizable and more economical oxy-polybenzimidazole (OPBI) and its sulfonated analogue (S-OPBI) as alternate PEMs in single-chambered MFCs. The S-OPBI membrane exhibits better properties, with high water uptake, ion exchange capacity (IEC) and proton conductivity and a comparatively smaller degree of swelling compared to Nafion. The membrane morphology is characterized by atomic force microscopy, and the bright and dark regions of the S-OPBI membrane reveals the formation of ionic domains in the matrix, forming continuous water nanochannels when doped with water. These water-filled nanochannels are responsible for faster proton conduction in S-OPBI than in Nafion; therefore, the power output in the MFC with S-OPBI as the PEM is higher than in other MFCs. The open circuit voltage (460 mV), current generation (2.27 mA) and power density profile (110 mW/m(2)) as a function of time, as well as the polarization curves, exhibits higher current and power density (87.8 mW/m(2)) with S-OPBI compared to Nafion as the PEM. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords:Microbial fuel cell;Proton exchange membrane;Sulfonated polybenzimidazole;Proton transport;Water nanochannels