Alkaline Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells

Project Leader(s): Prof Keith Scott
Contact: Prof Keith Scott
Sponsors: EPSRC and DSTL
Partners: Imperial College, Surrey and Cranfield Universities.

The first viable large scale fuel cell systems were the liquid electrolyte alkaline fuel cells developed by Francis Bacon. The main difficulties with these fuel cells surrounded the liquid electrolyte, which was difficult to immobilise and suffers from problems due to the formation of low solubility carbonate species. Subsequent material developments led to the introduction of proton-exchange membranes (PEMs   e.g. Nafion(r)) and the development of the well-known PEMFC. Recent advances in materials science and chemistry has allowed the production of membrane materials and ionomers which would allow the development of the alkaline-equivalent to PEMs. The application of these alkaline anion-exchange membranes (AAEMs) promises a quantum leap in fuel cell viability. Such fuel cells (conduction of OH- anions rather than protons) offer a number of significant advantages:

  1. Catalysis of fuel cell reactions is faster under alkaline conditions than acidic conditions - indeed non-platinum catalysts perform very favourably in this environment e.g. Ag for oxygen reduction.
  2. Many more materials show corrosion resistance in alkaline than in acid environments. This increases the number and chemistry of materials which can be used (including cheap, easy stamped and thin metal bipolar plate materials).
  3. Non-fluorinated ionomers are feasible and promise significant membrane cost reductions.
  4. Water and ionic transport within the OH-anion conducting electrolytes is favourable   electroosmotic drag transports water away from the cathode (preventing flooding on the cathode, a major issue with PEMFCs and DMFCs). This process also mitigates the 'crossover' problem in DMFCs. 

The research programme involves the development of a suite of materials and technology necessary to implement the alkaline polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (APEMFC). This research will be performed by a consortium of world leading materials scientists, chemists and engineers, based at Imperial College London, Cranfield University, University of Newcastle and the University of Surrey. The overall aim is to develop membrane materials, catalysts and ionomers for APEMFCs and to construct and operate such fuel cells utilising platinum-free electrocatalysts.

Additonal information


  • University of Science and Tech, Hefei, China
  • Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou
  • CMR Fuel Cells Ltd
  • AFC Energy
  • ITM Power Ltd
  • DSTL
  • Acta S p A 


Related Staff

Prof. Keith Scott
Professor of Electrochemical Engineering

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