The effectivness of using a non-platinum material combination for the catalyst layer of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell
Reddy, Dwayne Jensen
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The effectiveness of using a low cost non - platinum (Pt) material for the catalyst layer of a polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEMFC) was investigated. A test cell and station was developed. Two commercial Pt loaded membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) and one custom MEA were purchased from the Fuelcelletc store. Hydrogen and oxygen were applied to either side of the custom MEA which resulted in an additional sample tested. An aluminium flow field plate with a hole type design was manufactured for the reactants to reach the reaction sites. End plates made from perspex where used to enclose the MEA, flow field plates, and also to provide reactant inlet and outlet connection points. The developed test station consisted of hydrogen and oxygen sources, pressure regulators, mass flow controllers, heating plate, and humidification units. A number of experimental tests were carried out to determine the performance of the test cells. These tests monitored the performance of the test cell under no-load and loaded conditions. The tests were done at 25 °C and 35 °C at a pressure of 0.5 bar and varying hydrogen and oxygen volume flow rates. The no-load test showed that the MEA’s performed best at high reactant flow rates of 95 ml/min for hydrogen and 38 ml/min for oxygen. MEA 1, 2, 3, and 4 achieved an open circuit voltage (OVC) of 0.936, 0.855, 0.486 and 0.34 V respectively. The maximum current density achieved for the MEAs were 0.3816, 0.284, 15x10-6, and 50x10-6 A/cm2. Under loaded conditions the maximum power densities achieved at 25 °C for MEA’s 1, 2, 3, and 4 were 0.05, 0.038, 2.3x10-6, 1.99x10-6 W/cm2 respectively. Increasing the temperature by 10°C for MEA 1, 2, 3, 4 resulted in a 16.6, 22.1, 1.79, 10.47 % increase in the maximum power density. It was found that increasing platinum loading, flow rates, and temperature improved the fuel cell performance. It was also found that the catalytic, stability and adsorption characteristics of silver did not improve when combining it with iridium (Ir) and ruthenium oxide (RuOx) which resulted in low current generation. The low maximum power density thus achieved at a reduced cost is not feasible. Thus further investigation into improving the catalytic requirements of non Pt based catalyst material combinations is required to achieve results comparable to that of a Pt based PEMFC.