Active Flow Control of Lab-Scale Solid Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells
Leahy, Scott B.
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The effects of actively pulsing reactant flow rates into solid polymer electrolyte fuel cells were investigated in this thesis. First, work was conducted to determine the magnitude of voltage response to pulsed reactant flow on a direct hydrogen proton exchange membrane (PEM) cell. The effects of pulsed reactant flow into a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) were then considered. The PEM work showed substantially greater response to pulsed air flow than to pulsed fuel flow. It was found that several parameters affect the magnitude of cell response to active flow control (AFC). Increasing current load, increasing the magnitude of flow oscillation, decreasing the frequency of oscillation, and decreasing the average level of excess reactant supplied were found to maximize both the level of voltage oscillations and the decrease in cell power from steady state performance. Greater response to pulsed oxidant flow is believed to have been observed due to effects brought about by changes in membrane humidity. In contrast, pulsed fuel flow showed the greatest response in the study of DMFC technology. In this case, time averaged cell voltage was found to increase as the time averaged fuel flow rate was reduced. The increase in average cell power is the result of a reduction in methanol crossover; sustainable increases of up to 6% in power output were measured. The parameters found to effect the increase in cell power observed include the frequency of oscillation and the time-averaged NOSfuel. Pulsed air flow on the DMFC did not show any such rise in voltage, supporting the hypothesis that a reduction in methanol crossover is the phenomenon which brings about enhanced performance.