Investigating Catalyst Coated Membrane Equilibration Time For Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Manufacturing
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Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc., Fuel Cell Division, manufactures polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell stacks for use in vehicles. The manufacturing line is being optimized for efficiency and quality control, in order to uphold the high standards of Mercedes-Benz Inc. vehicles. In an operating polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell, the catalyst coated membrane facilitates the electrochemical reaction that generates electricity. This research examines the equilibration of catalyst coated membrane rolls to controlled temperature and humidity conditions, before they are used in the manufacturing of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Equilibration involves allowing the water content in the catalyst coated membrane to stabilize at the controlled conditions, in order to reduce mechanical stress in the material for better manufacturability. Initial equilibration measurements were conducted on discrete catalyst coated membrane samples using novel electronic conductivity measurements of the catalyst layer, and compared to ionic conductivity measurements of the membrane. Electronic conductivity measurements are easier to implement in the manufacturing environment than the more complex ionic conductivity measurements. When testing discrete catalyst coated membrane samples in an environmental chamber, the equilibration trends for the measured ionic and electronic conductivity signals were similar enough to permit us to adapt the electronic conductivity measurements for catalyst coated membrane in roll form. Equilibration measurements of catalyst coated membrane rolls were optimized to achieve a robust and repeatable procedure which could be used in the manufacturing environment at Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc., Fuel Cell Division.
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