Gel-casting of mesoporous silica electrolyte membranes loaded with phosphoric acid for protonic electrolyte cells

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Proton conducting membranes that operate at temperatures above 100 °C are highly sought after for use in energy devices such as fuel cells owing to the high catalytic activity of electrodes induced by elevated temperature and no requirement for water management. In the present study, novel mesoporous silica membranes were prepared by a gel-casting process using commercial colloidal silica and subsequent sintering. These membranes served as the scaffold for phosphoric acid-based electrolytes. Well-interconnected mesopores with uniform pore sizes was effective for hosting phosphoric acid (PA), and the tunable pore sizes (5.9–32.0 nm) were achieved by tuning the sintering temperature from 500 to 725 °C. High porosity (about 50%) and high hydrophilicity of silica membranes are beneficial to reach high phosphoric acid loading by an impregnation process. The PA-loaded membrane sintered at 700 °C achieved a high protonic conductivity of 0.11 S cm−1 and a peak power density of 287.3 mW cm−2 in hydrogen fuel cells at 160 °C. The conductivity is 1 order of magnitude higher than that of the pressed meso-silica membranes and comparable to that of PA-mesoporous silica spheres. This study has demonstrated a new method to construct high-temperature protonic electrolyte membranes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122789
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Fuel cells
  • Gel-casting
  • Mesoporous silica membranes
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Protonic electrolyte

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