Polymer Engineering for Energy Conversion Technologies
Gary E. Wnek
Department of Chemical Engineering
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Significant opportunities exist for the development and use of polymers in, for example, fuel cells and batteries for the conversion of chemical to electrical energy. We have helped to develop new classes of proton-conducting polymers for use in fuel cells based on sulfonated block and random copolymers, whose conductivities rival those of prototypical polymer electrolytes. The moisture-exchange characteristics of these materials are quite remarkable, and have opened unforeseen opportunities in energy management and utilization. We are also developing fuel cell and battery component (ion-conducting membrane and electrodes) fabrication methodologies using electrostatic polymer processing, specifically electrospraying and electrospinning, and recent results based on the use of these versatile new approaches will be summarized.