Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers collaborate to understand phenomena controlling PEM fuel cell performance, durability

27.01.2006


Two researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are working to understand several key phenomena that control hydrogen-fueled PEM (proton exchange membrane or polymer electrolyte membrane) fuel cells. One, Ken S. Chen, is developing computational models to describe the phenomena while the other, Mike Hickner, is performing physical experimentation.



The work is internally funded through a three-year Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) grant to tackle key technical challenges. Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

Proper water management and performance degradation, or durability, must be addressed before PEM fuel cells can be used to routinely power automobiles and homes.


"A natural byproduct of using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity in a PEM fuel cell is water [with waste heat being the other]," Chen, project principal investigator, says. "One challenge is maintaining the proper amount of water in a PEM fuel cell. Sufficient water in the membrane is needed to maintain its conductivity, whereas too much liquid water can result in flooding the cathode gas diffusion layer, which prevents reactant oxygen from reaching catalytic sites and causes performance deterioration."

The work is leading to better understandings in a couple of important areas, including how liquid water is produced, transported, and removed efficiently in PEM fuel cells and how PEM fuel cell performance degrades. Such understandings are key in finding ways to maintain the cells’ long-term performance during normal and harsh (e.g. freezing) conditions and improving their durability.

The close teaming between Chen’s modeling and Hickner’s experimental efforts has been quite helpful in meeting project objectives.

"Our approach in combining computational modeling with experiments is unique," Chen says. "Typically, Mike would perform discovery experiments to gain physical insights. I would then develop a model to describe the observation or data that Mike has obtained. Mike would perform further experiments so I can validate the model I have developed."

Hickner says they’ve obtained some nice feedback between the experiments and analyses. The intent is to build a computational tool that can be used in designing fuel cells, eliminating the need to do experiments on every single part of them.

"We want to have all the small pieces worked out in the modeling process so we can concentrate on the larger issues with experiments," he says.

Chen has been using GOMA, a Sandia-developed multidimensional and multi-physics finite-element computer code, as the basic platform to develop 2-D performance models for PEM fuel cells. With the assistance of Nathan Siegel, a postdoctoral researcher with the Solar Technologies Department at Sandia, he is also exploring the development of quasi-3D PEM fuel cell models using FLUENT, a commercial computational fluid dynamic computer code. Chen emphasizes that the focus of this LDRD project is on understanding the key phenomena using experimental means and computational models, both simplified and multi-dimensional.

Joel Lash, manager of Sandia’s Multiphase Transport Processes Department, concurs. "Sandia’s state-of-the-art multi-physics codes, like GOMA, form the backbone from which simplified phenomena-centric models can be developed to explore complex behavior, such as occurs in operating PEM fuel cells," he says.

For the past couple of years Chen and Hickner have focused mainly on liquid water transport, developing a PEM fuel cell model that can be employed to simulate a fuel cell’s performance, and performing diagnostic tests on fuel cells for phenomena discovery and model validation. Next, Chen says, they will tackle the key technical issues of performance degradation or durability, including performance degradation under normal operating conditions and under freezing operating conditions.

To date, the team has reported portions of its work in three refereed publications, four proceedings papers, and half a dozen technical presentations.

"Our validation method is new and exciting and leading us to learn some things not well known previously," Hickner says.

Bruce Kelley, project manager for the PEM Fuel Cell LDRD and manager of Sandia’s Chemical Biological Systems Department, says the project was developed specifically to leverage Sandia’s capabilities in multi-physics modeling and membrane materials to develop broader capabilities with applicability to fuel cells and other related technology areas.

In doing so, Kelley says, "We have attracted significant industrial interest in the work."

Chris Burroughs | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sandia.gov

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>