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Mathias Coudray

Process for recycling fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) using ionic liquids

Published on 9 December 2019
Thesis presented December 09, 2019

Recovery of the protons-exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) is an important issue for the growing of the fuel cells market. These MEAs contain platinum (Pt), which as a precious metal mainly influences the total cost of fuel cells. The recycling of Pt is still based to a great extent on hydro or pyrometallurgical techniques which produce toxic and pollutant gas emissions.
Some studies aimed to set up processes to recycle platinum in a more sustainable way than traditional metal lixiviation using strong acids. The study here is part of this research field and is about a new way to separate the different components of the PEMFC electrode using ionic liquids for the recycling of these valuable materials. These liquids possess excellent thermal and chemical stability and their non-volatility can be useful to set up a safer way to recover platinum.
A selection of ionic liquids was studied and some of them, including the P66614Cl (trihexyltetradecylphosphonium chloride), could be use to recover Pt nanoparticles detached from their carbon support and stabilized in the ionic liquid. A study on the interactions of ionic liquids and the components of the MEA allowed the extraction mecanisms to be better understood. Thus the ionics liquids interact strongly with Nafion in the catalyst layer which allows Pt nanoparticles to be recovered. These strong interactions set the stage for the simultaneous recycling of Nafion and Pt from MEAs.

ionic liquids, fuel cells, nanoparticles, platinum, recycling, Nafion