A European research team has been working on ion-exchange membranes that convert energy created by chemical reactions. These membranes are based on amphiphilic compounds, and are synthetic. This has great implications for the use of clean fuel cells.
The team, comprised of Russian, French and German scientists, have been collaborating to create this process that can be possibly used in fuel cells. The study was conducted at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, at the Laboratory of Functional Organic and Hybrid materials.
Batteries produce energy by utilizing the reaction of oxidizing and reducing agents. The batteries’ lifespan is complete when both the agents are consumed. When an accumulator is used, electric energy can be stored in packets.
An external source can then convert the energy to chemical energy, and release it again. This type of technology can be applied to fuel cells, which could help ease reliance on combustion engines, like those in vehicles. When put into vehicles, the fuel cell requires a specific infrastructure, but it is worth it to assist in reducing usage of dirtier fossil fuels.
With this study, scientists were working to make clean fuel cells a viable option in more scenarios. The team found that pores of certain molecules in the membranes of a fuel cell could be created, formed to be the precise size to optimize function. As efficiency improves, this could help increase the usage and applications of fuel cells.
The molecules are called A-Na and Azo-Na. Classified as benzenesulfonates, they can assemble themselves into a supramolecular structure. The molecules then form discs, which turn to columns. The ion channels are inside the columns.
Also created were polymers, which are tested for selective permeability. This means that scientists can identify which conditions and scenarios are best to create potential clean fuel cells.