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Posted: May 10, 2010

Biomimetic ultrathin structures as a multipurpose platform for nanotechnology-based products

(Nanowerk News) The goal of the MultiPlat project is to develop biomimetic proton conductive membranes with nanometer thickness (nanomembranes) through convergence of the number of fields. The primary application of this multipurpose nanotechnological platform is the next generation of fuel cells where it will replace the prevailing evolutionary modifications of the state of the art solutions.
Motivation
Deep and irreversible changes in our environment and dramatic depletion of natural resources obviously call for an urgent action. Whole technologies must be re-thinked and re-established towards creating a sustainable and environment friendly approach. The key issues behind many of them are the separation processes. However, a general disadvantage of all of the contemporary separation, including nanotechnology based systems, is their stochastic/non-organized internal structure at nano level. This generally leads to a high energy consumption, low efficiency and selectivity.
Current limitations of PEMFCs
  • Membranes with stochastic/non-organized internal structure with suboptimal separation performance
  • High energy consumption as a result of low permeation rates or low ion conductivity
  • Nafion – 50 years old solution
  • Operating temperature limited to 80oC
  • Protons flow associated with water flow
  • Specific resistance more than 0.06 Ω/cm
  • Overall FC performances (price € 7/W, low temp. decreases efficiency to < 50%)
  • Problems with catalyst poisoning at low working temperature (extremely pure hydrogen fuel necessary)
  • MultiPlat Solution
    The MultiPlat project will conceptualize, introduce and fabricate novel biomimetic, selective ion-conductive nanometric-thin membranes with highly ordered structure as a multipurpose platform for range of applications. The functionalisation will be created by integration of selective ion- conducting nanochannels with nanomembranes (free-standing structures ranging in thickness from 5 to 100 nm) in a manner analogous to that in biological cells, thus merging artificial and biological.
    In this way we impart the functionalities of a living structure to our artificial nano-building blocks, ensure smart behaviour and enable a quantum leap in many applications of utmost importance for our present and future needs.
    Biomimetic approach
    The contemporary artificial membranes for FC (Nafion related structures) enable proton transport under certain conditions. However, proton transport is unavoidably associated with bulk water transport as a side-effect. Nature solved this process more wisely and efficiently. It is advantageous for a cell to have separate transport of water and protons.
    Impact
    The fuel cells itself have been identified as the strategic decision for the EU energy policy. Efficient fuel cells will enable Europe to exploit resources best adapted to regional circumstances.
    MultiPlat project provides a new paradigm in at least two contemporary fields – nanomembranes and biomimetic ion channels. The fusion of these two fields will provide a novel nano-building block with far-reaching scientific consequences, a biomimetic multifunctional nanostructure with highly ordered internal organization. The concept of the MiltiPlat program goes well beyond the art and strives to unite artificial and biological.
    The MultiPlat new proton conductive nanomembranes, fully developed, will break the current monopoly and bring an advanced product based on the biomimetics and nanotechnologies.
    Source: Cordis
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