Stable Diacid Coordinated Quaternary Ammonium Polymers for 80-150°C Fuel Cells

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OPEN 2018
Los Alamos,
New Mexico
Project Term:
07/29/2019 - 07/29/2022

Critical Need:

Cost and durability are the primary challenges for fuel cell vehicle commercialization. The cost target for an 80-kW PEMFC (proton exchange membrane fuel cell) system based on high-volume manufacturing projections is $30/kW, including balance of plant (BOP) cost. (BOP covers all the supporting components and auxiliary systems of a power plant needed to deliver the energy, other than the generating unit itself.) The cost of a current fuel cell system is $46/kW. Current automotive fuel cells use polymer membranes requiring water for proton conduction and operate below 100°C, which increases BOP. Fuel cell operation above 100°C (212°F) would reduce BOP but requires high pressure, which is impractical for automotive applications due to compressor efficiency.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Los Alamos National Laboratory will develop proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for light-duty vehicles that operate on hydrogen or dimethyl ether (DME) fuel in the temperature range of 80-230°C (176-446°F) without first warming or humidifying the incoming fuel stream. The team’s concept uses a new polymer-based PEM that will provide high conductivity across a wide temperature range and can operate without humidification, simplifying the system components necessary to keep the cell running effectively, streamlining design, and reducing system size and costs, which are crucial for light duty vehicles. Developments from the project may be useful for other energy conversion technologies, such as ammonia production and high-temperature direct liquid fuel cells for heavy-duty vehicles.

Potential Impact:

This project aims to develop polymer electrolyte fuel cells that can operate at 80–230°C without humidification using a novel class of proton exchange membranes (PEMs).


Program innovations could result in efficient energy conversion solutions for the transportation sector. The project’s success could ensure U.S. leadership in advanced energy technologies and manufacturing.


Extending the operating temperature of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells will provide a more fuel efficient, less polluting means of transportation for light duty vehicles compared with standard combustion engines. This technology may be useful for other energy conversion technologies, such as electrochemical ammonia synthesis, CO2 reduction, high temperature direct liquid fuel cells, and combined heat and power applications.


High temperature (80-230°C) operation without humidification could enable cost savings of $7.5/kW by eliminating or reducing the size of BOP components such as the humidifier, cathode intercooler, demister, and radiator, making light duty PEM fuel cell vehicles more commercially attractive.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Grigorii Soloveichik
Project Contact:
Dr. Yu Seung Kim
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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