Polymer Membrane Separators for the Next-Generation of Energy-Water Systems

Technology Summary

 Polymer membrane separators play a crucial function in many energy and water technologies including: energy storage, hydrogen generation through water electrolysis, and fuel cell based stationary and transportation power systems. The cost and performance of current polymer membranes have hindered the widespread adoption of these clean energy technologies. Sandia’s inexpensive poly(phenylene)-based hydrocarbon polymer membrane separator was developed to encourage increased implementation of these next-generation of energy-water systems.


Sandia’s membrane technology starts with a poly(phenylene) backbone that is chemically functionalized based on the intended application which greatly reduces manufacturing costs. For instance, the membrane can be optimized for transportation of protons (H+) or hydroxyl ions (OH-) depending on the acidic or alkaline environment of the energy-water system. To further reduce costs, the membrane is designed to eliminate the need for precious metal catalysts.

This technology can reduce costs associated with stationary energy storage and promote growth of renewable energy sources while providing grid stability. It also provides a more efficient, cheaper alternative to membranes currently used in fuel cell vehicles which are becoming strong competitors to electric vehicles due to their shorter refueling times and longer driving ranges.

This is the first membrane technology of its kind to demonstrate superior performance and cost savings over current state-of-the-art. Sandia’s innovative membrane has the potential to change the landscape in fuel cell and water electrolysis systems and can usher in a new era of clean technologies.


  • Reduced manufacturing costs
  • High ion conductivities
  • Reduced cross-over
  • Operates over a wide range of temperatures
  • Chemical and thermal stability in acidic and alkaline environments
  • Crosslinking allows for the density of the ionic functional groups to be increased, which means tougher membranes with higher IECs
  • New material has enhanced water management


Applications and Industries

  • Chemical Applications
  • Transportation and Automotive
  • Fuel Cells


Additional Information


Intellectual Property

ID Number
Patent Number
Epoxy-crosslinked sulfonated poly (phenylene) copolymer proton exchange membranes 11210.0 7,816,482 10/19/2010
Poly(phenylene)-based anion exchange membrane 10987.0 7,888,397 02/15/2011
Functionalization of poly(phenylene) by the attachment of sidechains 8,809,483 08/19/2014
Multi-block sulfonated poly(phenylene) copolymer proton exchange membranes 8,110,636 02/07/2012
Sulfonated polyphenylene polymers 7565.1 7,301,002 11/27/2007
Technology IDSD#7561Development StagePrototype - Sandia estimates this technology at approximately TRL 6. Deliverable prototype testing has been conducted. AvailabilityAvailable - Various license and partnering options are available. Please contact the Intellectual Property department to discuss. Published10/04/2011Last Updated01/23/2013