Self-Standing, Robust Membranes Made of Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNCs) and a Protic Ionic Liquid: Toward Sustainable Electrolytes for Fuel Cells
Journal article, 2021

Energy-conversion devices based on the phenomenon of proton conduction, for example, polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), require low cost and sustainable electrolytes with high ionic conductivity and good mechanical properties under anhydrous conditions and at temperatures up to 150 °C. Biopolymers possess an intrinsic thermomechanical stability but an insufficient proton conductivity in the dry state, which however may be imparted by a protic ionic liquid (PIL). This work presents the preparation and properties of composite membranes made of cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and a PIL. The membranes are thermally stable and display an ionic conductivity within the range 10-4-10-3 S/cm for temperatures between 120 and 160 °C. Moreover, the analysis of the biopolymer's apparent dimensions at nanoscale reveals a dependence of the CNCs' defects, twisting, and aggregation in the presence of the PIL. Preliminary tests using a simple fuel cell setup demonstrate a response of the membranes to the inlet of H2 gas, with a generation of electrical current. These findings provide a solid groundwork for further development and future studies of biopolymer/PIL electrolytes for energy applications.

polymer electrolyte

protic ionic liquid


cellulose nanocrystals

fuel cell


Olesia Danyliv

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Applied Chemistry

Michal Strach

Chalmers, Physics, CMAL

Oleksandr Nechyporchuk

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden

Tiina Nypelö

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Applied Chemistry

Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC)

Anna Martinelli

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Applied Chemistry

ACS Applied Energy Materials

25740962 (eISSN)

Vol. 4 7 6474-6485

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories


Materials Chemistry

Other Chemical Engineering

Areas of Advance




More information

Latest update

1/3/2024 9