PEM fuel cell current regulation by fuel feed control

Claire H. Woo, J. B. Benziger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations

Abstract

We demonstrate that the power output from a PEM fuel cell can be directly regulated by limiting the hydrogen feed to the fuel cell. Regulation is accomplished by varying the internal resistance of the membrane-electrode assembly in a self-draining fuel cell with the effluents connected to water reservoirs. The fuel cell functionally operates as a dead-end design where no gas flows out of the cell and water is permitted to flow in and out of the gas flow channel. The variable water level in the flow channel regulates the internal resistance of the fuel cell. The hydrogen and oxygen (or air) feeds are set directly to stoichiometrically match the current, which then control the water level internal to the fuel cell. Standard PID feedback control of the reactant feeds has been incorporated to speed up the system response to changes in load. With dry feeds of hydrogen and oxygen, 100% hydrogen utilization is achieved with 130% stoichiometric feed on the oxygen. When air was substituted for oxygen, 100% hydrogen utilization was achieved with stoichiometric air feed. Current regulation is limited by the size of the fuel cell (which sets a minimum internal impedance), and the dynamic range of the mass flow controllers. This type of regulation could be beneficial for small fuel cell systems where recycling unreacted hydrogen may be impractical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)957-968
Number of pages12
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Volume62
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Keywords

  • Efficiency
  • Fuel cell control
  • Fuel utilization
  • Impedance matching
  • PEM fuel cells

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