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Journal of Applied Electrochemistry

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 169–181 | Cite as

Cell performance distribution in a low-temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cell stack during propene contamination

  • Jean St-PierreEmail author
  • Maheboob B. V. Virji
Research Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Fuel cells

Abstract

A 36-cell proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) stack was contaminated with 50 ppm propene in air. Propene contamination amplified the uneven cell performance distribution along the stack length. End cells showed a larger performance change due to contamination than contiguous cells owing to a lower temperature and a larger effect of contamination at lower temperatures. The performance change of the inner cells linearly varied from cell 2 to cell 35 and was attributed to several causes including the uneven sub-saturated air flow distribution and the propene oxidation reaction involving a water molecule. The inner cells performance distribution was also credited to the uneven coolant flow distribution and a large effect of temperature on contamination. Higher cathode potentials acted as a cleaning method that minimized the contamination effect by promoting propene oxidation and led to weakly adsorbing CO2. As a consequence, higher cathode potentials also resulted in smoothing the uneven inner cells performance distribution.

Keywords

Proton exchange membrane fuel cell Fuel cell stack Voltage distribution Air stream contaminant 

List of symbols

Aend

End plate heat transfer surface (m2)

Asides

Cell sides heat transfer surface (m2)

b

Stack inner cells performance linear regression parameter (mV cell−1)

C

Coolant heat capacity (J kg−1 K−1)

Ca

Anode capacitance (F)

CPEc

Cathode constant phase element

i

Summation index

I

Cell current (A)

j

\(\sqrt { - 1}\)

k

Heat transfer coefficient (W K−1 m−2)

\(\dot{m}\)

Coolant flux (kg s−1)

n

Cell number or number of cells

Q

Heat produced (W)

QCPE

Cathode constant phase element coefficient (\({\text{s}}^{{\alpha_{\text{CPE}} }}\) Ω−1)

Qend

Natural convection heat loss through the end plate (W)

Qinner

Inner cell heat loss (W)

Qsides

Natural convection heat loss through the cell sides (W)

Q1 or n

End cells heat loss (W)

Ra

Hydrogen oxidation charge transfer resistance (Ω)

Rc

Oxygen reduction charge transfer resistance (Ω) or cell flow field channels hydraulic resistance (Pa s m−3)

Rcn

Cell n flow field channels hydraulic resistance (Pa s m−3)

Rm

Cell manifolds hydraulic resistance (Pa s m−3)

Rmn

Cell n manifolds hydraulic resistance (Pa s m−3)

Rn

Cell n total hydraulic resistance (Pa s m−3)

Rohm

Membrane resistance (Ω)

Rohm,b

Membrane resistance during the pre-contamination phase (Ω)

Rohm,c

Membrane resistance during the contamination phase (Ω)

RW

Cathode generalized finite length Warburg element resistance (Ω)

Ta

Ambient temperature (K)

Tcell

Cell temperature (K)

Tc,in

Inlet coolant temperature (K)

Tc,out

Outlet coolant temperature (K)

Ts

End plate surface temperature (K)

tW

Cathode generalized finite length Warburg element time constant (s)

Vb

Cell voltage during the pre-contamination phase used as baseline value (V)

Vc

Cell voltage during the contamination phase (V)

Vr

Cell voltage during the recovery phase (V)

Vs

Stack voltage (V)

Vtn

Thermo-neutral cell voltage (V)

Wsc

Cathode generalized finite length Warburg element

ZCPE

Cathode constant phase element impedance (Ω)

ZW

Cathode generalized finite length Warburg element impedance (Ω)

αCPE

Cathode constant phase element exponent

αW

Cathode generalized finite length Warburg element exponent

ΔT

Coolant temperature rise between stack inlet and outlet (K)

ΔVend

Voltage difference between an end cell and the stack inner cells linear regression (mV)

ω

Angular frequency (rad s−1)

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the United States Office of Naval Research (award N00014-12-1-0496) and to the Hawaiian Electric Company for their ongoing support to the operations of the Hawaii Sustainable Energy Research Facility.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10800_2015_896_MOESM1_ESM.doc (80 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 80 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hawaii Natural Energy InstituteUniversity of Hawaii – ManoaHonoluluUSA

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