Polymers (Basel). 2022 Aug 18;14(16):3385. doi: 10.3390/polym14163385.
Perfluorosulfonic acid (PFSA) polymers such as Nafion are the most frequently used Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) in PEM fuel cells. Nafion XL is one of the most recently developed membranes designed to enhance performance by employing a mechanically reinforced layer in the architecture and a chemical stabilizer. The influence of the water and acid pre-treatment process on the physicochemical properties of Nafion XL membrane and Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) was investigated. The obtained results indicate that the pre-treated membranes have higher water uptake and dimensional swelling ratios, i.e., higher hydrophilicity, while the untreated membrane demonstrated a higher ionic exchange capacity. Furthermore, the conductivity of the acid pre-treated Nafion XL membrane was ~ 9.7% higher compared to the untreated membrane. Additionally, the maximum power densities obtained at 80 °C using acid pre-treatment were ~ 0.8 and 0.93 W/cm2 for re-cast Nafion and Nafion XL, respectively. However, the maximum generated powers for untreated membranes at the same condition were 0.36 and 0.66 W/cm2 for re-cast Nafion and Nafion XL, respectively. The overall results indicated that the PEM’s pre-treatment process is essential to enhance performance.