Researchers at The University of Manchester, UK, have tested graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) in the membrane area of fuel cell. The reported results show a rather exciting reduction in crossover (diffusion of methanol from anode to cathode through the membrane that causes short-circuits) with no changes in proton conductivity and a performance improvement of up to 50%.

Fuel cells, devices that convert the chemical energy of fuel directly into electrical energy through oxidation-reduction reactions, are considered to have potential for use in future energy applications as they are efficient and clean. Methanol fuel cells are widely favored due to their usage of methnaol as a liquid fuel, simplicity in operation, higher energy density of methnaol fuel and more. A major hindrance to commercialization,though, is methanol crossover taking place in the membrane area of fuel cells, leading to short circuits and greatly affecting overall performance.

Previous work in this field also tested different materials that yielded improved performance by reducing the methanol crossover, but these also significantly reduced proton transport, as opposed to the this work in which it remained unharmed.

Prabhuraj Balakrishnan of the research team stated that these results may also be applicable to additional types of fuel cells.