High Temperature PEM Fuel Cells - Degradation and Durability

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

Abstract

A harmonious mix of renewable and alternative energy sources, including fuel cells is necessary to mitigate problems associated with the current fossil fuel based energy system, like air pollution, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and economic dependence on oil, and therefore on unstable areas of the globe. Fuel cells can harness the excess energy from other renewable sources, such as the big players in the renewable energy market, Photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind turbines, which inherently suffer from intermittency problems. The excess energy can be used to produce hydrogen from water or can be stored in liquid alcohols such as methanol, which can be sources of hydrogen for fuel cell applications. In addition, fuel cells unlike other technologies can use a variety of other fuels that can provide a source of hydrogen, such as biogas, methane, butane, etc. More fuel flexibility combined with wider range of applications than any other available technology make them suitable candidates for powering a sustainable future. This work analyses the degradation issues of a High Temperature Proton Exchange Memebrane Fuel Cell (HT-PEMFC). It is based on the assumption that given the current challenges for storage and distribution of hydrogen, it is more practical to use liquid alcohols as energy carriers for fuel cells. Among these, methanol is very attractive, as it can be obtained from a variety of renewable sources and has a relatively low reforming temperature for the production of hydrogen rich gaseous mixture. The effects on HT-PEMFC of the different constituents of this gaseous mixture, known as a reformate gas, are investigated in the current work. For this, an experimental set up, in which all these constituents can be fed to the anode side of a fuel cell for testing, is put in place. It includes mass flow controllers for the gaseous species, and a vapor delivery system for the vapor mixture of the unconverted reforming reactants.
Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) is used to characterize the effects of these impurities. The effects of CO were tested up to 2% by volume along with other impurities. All the reformate impurities, including ethanol-water vapor mixture, cause loss in the performance of the fuel cell. In general, CO2 dilutes the reactants, if tested alone at high operating temperatures (180 C), but tends to exacerbate the effects of CO if they are tested together. On the other hand, CO and methanol-water vapor mixture degrade the fuel cell proportionally to the amounts in which they are tested. In this dissertation some of the mechanisms with which the impurities affect the fuel cell are discussed and interdependence among the effects is also studied. This showed that the combined effect of reformate impuritiesis more than the arithmetic sum of the individual effects of reformate constituents. The results of the thesis help to understand better the issues of degradation and durability in fuel cells, which can help to make them more durable and competitive with traditional devices to revolutionize the current energy systems.
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A harmonious mix of renewable and alternative energy sources, including fuel cells is necessary to mitigate problems associated with the current fossil fuel based energy system, like air pollution, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and economic dependence on oil, and therefore on unstable areas of the globe. Fuel cells can harness the excess energy from other renewable sources, such as the big players in the renewable energy market, Photovoltaic (PV) panels and wind turbines, which inherently suffer from intermittency problems. The excess energy can be used to produce hydrogen from water or can be stored in liquid alcohols such as methanol, which can be sources of hydrogen for fuel cell applications. In addition, fuel cells unlike other technologies can use a variety of other fuels that can provide a source of hydrogen, such as biogas, methane, butane, etc. More fuel flexibility combined with wider range of applications than any other available technology make them suitable candidates for powering a sustainable future. This work analyses the degradation issues of a High Temperature Proton Exchange Memebrane Fuel Cell (HT-PEMFC). It is based on the assumption that given the current challenges for storage and distribution of hydrogen, it is more practical to use liquid alcohols as energy carriers for fuel cells. Among these, methanol is very attractive, as it can be obtained from a variety of renewable sources and has a relatively low reforming temperature for the production of hydrogen rich gaseous mixture. The effects on HT-PEMFC of the different constituents of this gaseous mixture, known as a reformate gas, are investigated in the current work. For this, an experimental set up, in which all these constituents can be fed to the anode side of a fuel cell for testing, is put in place. It includes mass flow controllers for the gaseous species, and a vapor delivery system for the vapor mixture of the unconverted reforming reactants.
Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) is used to characterize the effects of these impurities. The effects of CO were tested up to 2% by volume along with other impurities. All the reformate impurities, including ethanol-water vapor mixture, cause loss in the performance of the fuel cell. In general, CO2 dilutes the reactants, if tested alone at high operating temperatures (180 C), but tends to exacerbate the effects of CO if they are tested together. On the other hand, CO and methanol-water vapor mixture degrade the fuel cell proportionally to the amounts in which they are tested. In this dissertation some of the mechanisms with which the impurities affect the fuel cell are discussed and interdependence among the effects is also studied. This showed that the combined effect of reformate impuritiesis more than the arithmetic sum of the individual effects of reformate constituents. The results of the thesis help to understand better the issues of degradation and durability in fuel cells, which can help to make them more durable and competitive with traditional devices to revolutionize the current energy systems.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Energy Technology, Aalborg University
Number of pages147
ISBN (Print)978-87-92846-14-3
StatePublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch

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