Probing phosphoric acid redistribution and anion migration in polybenzimidazole membranes

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Micro platinum electrodes embedded in a laminated phosphoric acid doped polybenzimidazole membrane are employed to monitor the acid migration during hydrogen pump mode operation. Upon application of a constant current, an immediate ohmic resistance decrease of the membrane near the anode is observed, accompanied by a corresponding increase near the cathode side. This is a direct evidence of migration of the acid anions via the vehicle conducting mechanism, resulting in an accumulation of acid at the anode side and depletion at the cathode side. Both resistances reach a steady state value after a prolonged period of measurement, apparently balanced by the back diffusion of the acid molecules. The phenomenon is magnified at higher current densities and with increased thickness of the overall membrane, which is of significance in quantitative understanding of the proton conductivity mechanism e.g. for determination of the anionic transference number. The finding provides a technique to monitor the acid redistribution within the membrane as a basis for an engineering solution to address the long-term durability of fuel cells built around phosphoric acid doped polymer membranes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalElectrochemistry Communications
Pages (from-to)21-24
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Phosphoric acid
  • Polybenzimidazole
  • Transference number
  • Vehicle mechanism
  • Migration
  • High temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cells


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