Earl Brewley, Jr.

Earl Brewley, Jr.

University of the Virgin Islands

Chemistry


2006

Mentor: Dr. V.K. Mathur, UNH Department of Chemical Engineering

An Experimental Study and Data Analysis of a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC)

Gas prices are at an all time high and are steadily rising. With the United States’s high dependency on oil, an alternative source of energy is needed. PEMFC, the type of fuel cell used in this study, is a scientific innovation in which hydrogen as a fuel source makes electricity and uses the oxygen from the air to make a byproduct of water. In a fuel cell system, hydrogen gas enters the anode side of the fuel cell. Hydrogen protons flow through the gas diffusion layer and the proton exchange membrane. Electrons flow alongside the membrane and eventually through the amplifier where voltage, current density and power is measured and back to the cathode side of the fuel cell. Air is passed through the cathode side of the fuel cell. Oxygen from air disassociates with the help of a platinum catalyst. The oxygen atoms, return electrons, and hydrogen ions across the membrane combine to form water.

Membrane Exchange Assembly (MEA) is the driving force that powers the fuel cell as it helps hydrogen gas dissociate into hydrogen ions and electrons. The MEA is made up of a sulfuric acid treated Nafion polymer electrolyte exchange membrane and a catalyst coated gas diffusion layer (GDL). The catalyst used is 20% platinum on carbon. The GDL in the MEA is coated with a layer of catalyst. Several (MEA) are tested with different gas diffusion layers.

Experiments were ran with different humidity to determine how it will affect the efficiency and performance of a fuel cell. The temperatures of the fuel cell are increased to determine whether heat will speed up the chemical reaction and allow an increase in power generation. The fuel cell was run at different gas flow rates of air and hydrogen gas. Performance curves are made to determine the amount of voltage, current density, and power produced by the fuel cell.

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