This article reports extensive studies of a Vycor®
porous glass (VPG) membrane as an ion separator for an all-vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB). The VPG membrane had an average pore size of 4 nm and porosity of ~28%. The VPG ion separator exhibited higher proton diffusivity but lower conductivity than the Nafion®
117 membrane because the former is intrinsically nonionic. The VRFB equipped with the VPG ion separator (VPG-VRFB) exhibited much better stability during long-term cyclic operation than the VRFB equipped with the Nafion-117 membrane (Nafion-VRFB) because the ionic Nafion membrane could be contaminated by vanadium ions exchanged into the water channels. This increases its area specific resistance, while the VPG does not have ion exchange capacity and hence has less vanadium ion contamination. The VPG-VRFB was found to outperform the Nafion-VRFB in energy efficiency (EE) during long-term cyclic operation although the former underperformed the latter in the initial period of continued operation. The VPG ion separator also showed markedly better thermal stability and temperature tolerance than the Nafion membrane as indicated by the significantly smaller losses of EE and discharge capacity for the VPG-VRFB than for the Nafion-VRFB after operating at 45 °C. The outstanding temperature tolerance of the VPG ion separator is due primarily to its rigid and non-swelling pore structure and nonionic nature, which are highly resistant to thermal distortion and vanadium ion contamination. The excellent temperature tolerance of the VPG may be useful for applications where temperature control is difficult.
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