Novel carbon materials with nanometer dimensions are of potentially significant importance for a number of advanced technological applications. Currently, considerable interest exists in the possible applications of single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) to proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Proposed uses include as anode materials in both hydrogen and direct methanol fuel cells, solid polymer electrolyte additives, active cathode materials and bipolar plate interconnects. One of the desirable attributes afforded by the use of SWNTs in fuel cell applications stems from a combination of their extremely high electrical conductivity and large aspect ratios which results in a low weight percent for the electrical percolation threshold. This conductivity combined with the outstanding catalytic surface area offered by these nanostructured materials makes them a potentially outstanding active material for PEM electrodes. In addition, the high thermal conductivity, enhanced mechanical properties and corrosion resistance of polymer-SWNT composites may play a large role in developing new fuel cell designs such as thin-film microelectronic fuel cells. We will review the current applications involving SWNTs in PEM fuel cells and report on the recent work in the Nanopower Research Lab at RIT and it partners on utilizing high purity SWNT’s in microelectronic fuel cells.

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