Our group aims to optimize the thermomechanical reliability of membranes by understanding the interplay of molecular design, microstructure, processing, and mechanical properties.
PEMs are widely used in PEM fuel cells (PEMFCs) and in direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). However, the thermomechanical reliability of these membranes is one of the biggest challenges in improving fuel cell reliability. In our research, we employ a suite of characterization techniques such as the micro-tension test, bulge test, tearing test, and thin film adhesion and cohesion tests that we have pioneered to examine the thermomechanical properties of the membrane under a range of simulated operation environments, including temperature and hydration level, and foreign cation and catalyst platinum dispersion contamination.
Furthermore, we are particularly interested in size-dependent mechanical properties. We have developed a unique capability in characterizing tearing when the membrane is mechanically constrained. This is highly relevant for membranes used in devices since they are often constrained by the device hardware. We analyze our results through the lens of molecular design and microstructure and build a fundamental understanding of the material for optimizing its performance.