The effect of flow field design on the degradation mechanisms and long term stability of HT-PEM fuel cell
MetadataShow full item record
Fuel cells are long term solution for global energy needs. In current fuel cell technologies, Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells are known for quick start-up and ease of operation compared to other types of fuel cells. Operating PEM fuel cells at high temperature show promising applications for stationary combined heat and power application (CHP). The high operating temperature up to 160°C allows waste heat to be recovered for co-generation or tri-generation purposes. The commercially available PEM fuel cells operating at 160⁰C can tolerate up to 3% CO without significant loss of performance, making HT-PEM fuel cell viable choice when reformate is used. In reality these advantages convert to very little balance-of-plant compared to Nafion® based fuel cells operating at 60°C. However, there are some problems that prevent high temperature fuel cells from large scale commercialization. The cathode is said to have sluggish reaction kinetics and high cell potentials and operating temperature during fuel cell start-up may cause severe degradation. The formation of liquid water during the shut-down can cause the phosphoric acid to leach from the cell during operation. Efforts are being made to reduce the cost and increase the durability of fuel cell components (such as catalyst and membrane) at high temperatures. Apart from degradation issues, the problems are related to cost and performance. The performance of the PEM fuel cells depends on a lot of factors such as fuel cell design and assembly, operating conditions and the flow field design used on the cathode and anode plates. The flow field geometry is one important factor influencing the performance of fuel cells. The flow fields have significant effect on pressure and flow distribution inside the fuel cell. A homogeneous distribution of the reactant gases over the active catalyst surface leads to improved electrochemical reactions and thus enhances the performance of the fuel cell. So, the design of flow fields is one of the important issues for performance improvement of PEM fuel cell in terms of power density and efficiency. There are different types of flow fields available for PEM fuel cells such as serpentine, pin, interdigitated and straight flow fields but the most obvious choice is multiple serpentine. The same can be used for high temperature PEM fuel cell (HT-PEMFC) application with ease because of absence of liquid water during the high temperature operation and no need for complex water management.