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A shorted membrane electrochemical cell powered by hydrogen to remove CO2 from the air feed of hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells


The alkaline environment of hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells (HEMFCs) potentially allows use of cost-effective catalysts and bipolar plates in devices. However, HEMFC performance is adversely affected by CO2 present in the ambient air feed. Here, we demonstrate an electrochemically driven CO2 separator (EDCS) to remove CO2 from the air feed using a shorted membrane that conducts both anions and electrons. This EDCS is powered by hydrogen like a fuel cell but needs no electrical wires, bipolar plates or current collectors, and thus can be modularized like a typical separation membrane. We show that a 25 cm2 shorted membrane EDCS can achieve >99% CO2 removal from 2,000 standard cubic centimetres per minute (sccm) of air for 450 hours and operate effectively under load-following dynamic conditions. A spiral-wound EDCS module can remove >98% CO2 from 10,000 sccm of air. Our technoeconomic analysis indicates a compact and efficient module at >99% CO2 removal costs US$112 for an 80 kWnet HEMFC stack.

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Fig. 1: Effect of CO2 on HEMFC performance.
Fig. 2: Working principle of the shorted membrane EDCS.
Fig. 3: Preparation and properties of the shorted membrane.
Fig. 4: Control of the shorted membrane EDCS by hydrogen supply.
Fig. 5: Performance and durability for the shorted membrane EDCS.
Fig. 6: Demonstration of the spiral-wound EDCS module.
Fig. 7: Economic analysis for the EDCS module.

Data availability

The data presented in this study are available in figshare47 at


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The information, data or work presented herein were funded in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), US Department of Energy, under award number DE-AR0001034. S.G. is the principal investigator of the project. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



B.P.S. and Y.Y. conceived the idea of the shorted membrane and spiral-wound module. L.S. prepared the shorted membranes and designed the experiments. S.M. and B.P.S. designed the spiral-wound module. L.S. and Y.Z. characterized the shorted membranes, and fabricated and performed the single cell EDCS and spiral-wound module tests. B.P.S. developed the model of CO2 effect. B.P.S. and Y.Z. completed the technoeconomic analysis. S.G. provided guidance throughout the project, helped with data interpretation and improved the manuscript. L.S., Y.Z., B.P.S. and Y.Y. wrote the manuscript with the support of all co-authors.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Brian P. Setzler or Yushan Yan.

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Competing interests

The PiperION membranes and ionomers were provided for free by Versogen, Inc. for which Y.Y., B.P.S. and Y.Z. are cofounders and S.G. is an adviser. L.S. and S.M. claim no competing interests.

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Nature Energy thanks Lorenz Gubler, Hamish Miller and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–3, Tables 1–4 and Figs. 1–16.

Supplementary Video 1

Video showing demonstration of the spiral-wound EDCS module with different rates of hydrogen supply.

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Shi, L., Zhao, Y., Matz, S. et al. A shorted membrane electrochemical cell powered by hydrogen to remove CO2 from the air feed of hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells. Nat Energy 7, 238–247 (2022).

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