Membrane Electrode Assembly Fabrication and Test Method Development for a Novel Thermally Regenerative Fuel Cell
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A test system for the performance analysis of a novel thermally regenerative fuel cell (TRFC) using propiophenone and hydrogen as the oxidant and fuel respectively was designed and built. The test system is capable of either hydrogen-air or hydrogen-propiophenone operation. Membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) were made using commercial phosphoric acid-doped polybenzimidazole (PBI) membranes and commercial electrodes. Using Pt/carbon paper electrodes with a catalyst loading of 1mg/cm2 and a membrane with an acid doping level of 10.2 mol acid/mol of polymer repeat unit, a maximum performance of 212 mW/cm2 at a current density of 575 mA/cm2 was achieved for baseline hydrogen-air testing at 110°C. Problems were encountered, however, in achieving consistent, reproducible performance for in-house fabricated MEAs. Furthermore, ex-situ electrochemical impedance spectrometry (EIS) showed that the phosphoric acid-doped PBI was unstable in the propiophenone and that acid-leaching was occurring. In order to have MEAs with consistent characteristics for verifying the test system performance, commercial phosphoric acid-doped PBI membrane electrode assemblies were used. At a temperature of 160°C and atmospheric pressure with hydrogen and air flowrates of 150 mL/min and 900 mL/min respectively a maximum power density of 387 mW/cm2 at a current density of 1.1 A/cm2 was achieved. This performance was consistent with the manufacturer’s specifications and these MEAs were subsequently used to verify the performance of TRFC test system despite the EIS results that indicated that acid-leaching would probably occur. The Pt catalyzed commercial MEAs achieved very limited performance for the hydrogenation of the ketone. However, the performance was less than but comparable to similar results previously reported in the literature by Chaurasia et al. . For pure Pt catalyst loading of 1 mg/cm2, using a commercial PBI MEA operating at 160°C and atmospheric pressure, the maximum power density was 40 µW/cm2 at a current density of 1.3 mA/cm2. A 16 hour test was conducted for these conditions with a constant 1 ohm load, successfully demonstrating the operation of the test system. The test system will be used in the development of better catalysts for ketone hydrogenation.