Incorporating Nanoscale Composites into Stereolithographic Printing Techniques for the Optimization of Membrane Electrochemical Properties

Open Access
Malencia, Christopher Mark
Area of Honors:
Chemical Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Michael Anthony Hickner, Thesis Supervisor
  • Angela Lueking, Honors Advisor
  • stereolithography
  • composite
  • membrane
  • electrochemical
Fuel cells and portable electrochemical devices serve as environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuel technologies for the portable electronic and transportation sectors. Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), batteries, and other fuel cells utilize ion exchange membranes or polymer electrolyte membranes between cathodic and anodic reactions. The incorporation of nanoparticles and nanoscale composites leads to optimal conductivities and stabilities of these electrochemical membranes. Composite polymer synthesis conventionally follows a solution casting method. Stereolithography, or 3D-printing through photopolymerization, offers an advantageous alternative and can produce high surface area membranes. This thesis proposes the utilization of 3D-printing techniques in synthesizing composite polymer membranes for electrochemical applications. Six major 3D printing techniques include stereolithography, digital light processing, fused deposition modeling, selective laser sintering, electronic bean melting, and laminated object manufacturing. Polymer membranes require high precision in both printer resolution and chemical composition. Stereolithographic and digital light processing techniques offer ideal pathways for creating specialized membranes. Both printing techniques were utilized to introduce composite doping into the Penn State 3D printing laboratory. Hydrophobic and hydrophilic clays were compared at varying additive concentrations; resin properties and mechanical testing highlighted hydrophilic clays as an ideal additive to the poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate and polyurethane resins used. Non-uniform compositions across hydrophobic prints suggested that hydrophobic composite doping was ill suited for printing the resins-clay mixtures.