Development of Intermediate Temperature Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell with Multi-Functional Plate

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell (PEFC) technology is considered as the most suitable zero carbon emission solution for transportation applications. PEFCs with operating temperatures of between 100oC and 120oC, coined 'intermediate temperature' PEFC (IT-PEFC), provide several benefits including; improved reaction rate, slightly higher tolerance to contaminants in the fuel stream, lower liquid water build-up, and simplified BOP system. In PEFC stacks, the bipolar plate (BPP) and gas diffusion layer (GDL) are significant cost-drivers. Therefore, BPP/GDL materials and flow-field pattern optimisation can greatly improve stack performance and reduce costs. Porous metallic foam can be applied as alternative of BPPs or GDLs of PEFCs resulting lower weight, lower contact resistance, and more uniform distribution of current density over the catalyst layer. In this project, design, fabrication and test of a metal foam plate as well as a thin metal plate for IT-PEFC will be performed. This set of plates, the so-called multifunctional plate (MFP), replaced BPPs and GDLs of conventional cells, increasing the volumetric power density by reducing the thickness of the single repeating unit up to 60%. Moreover, with the use of MFP, the manufacturing of GDL and BPP can be combined into a single process, resulting in a substantial reduction in manufacturing cost.
To reach the projects aims, a range of activities including numerical simulation, fabrication, tests and feasibility study will be performed via 4 work packages: 1. MFP design via numerical simulation; 2. Prototyping/ ex-situ/ in-situ test of MFP-ITPEFC; 3. Manufacturing/test of short stacks, and 4. Techno-economics study for commercialisation.
The ambitious aim will be achieved with the complementary skills of fellow and supervisors, based on the unique properties of metallic foam, major features of IT-PEFCs, a well-designed training scheme, and the excellent experience and facilities of industrial partners.


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