Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Collaborate To Understand Phenomena Controlling PEM Fuel Cell Performance, Durability

Date:
January 30, 2006
Source:
Sandia National Laboratories
Summary:
Two Sandia researchers are studying key phenomena that control hydrogen-fueled PEM (proton exchange membrane or polymer electrolyte membrane) fuel cells. Before PEM fuel cells can be used to routinely power automobiles and homes, improved durability, as well as techniques for managing the water generated as a byproduct of electricity production in fuel cells, must be achieved. The research focuses on both computational models and physical experimentation to examine the phenomena.

Sandia researchers Ken S. Chen, left, and Mike Hickner are collaborating on their research to study PEM fuel cells. Ken is developing computational models to describe the phenomena while Mike is performing physical experimentation.
Credit: Photo by Michelle Fleming

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."

###

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.



Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Sandia National Laboratories. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Sandia National Laboratories. "Researchers Collaborate To Understand Phenomena Controlling PEM Fuel Cell Performance, Durability." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126191841.htm>.
Sandia National Laboratories. (2006, January 30). Researchers Collaborate To Understand Phenomena Controlling PEM Fuel Cell Performance, Durability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126191841.htm
Sandia National Laboratories. "Researchers Collaborate To Understand Phenomena Controlling PEM Fuel Cell Performance, Durability." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126191841.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Researchers found the scanners could be duped simply by placing a weapon off to the side of the body or encasing it under a plastic shield. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins