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Research Papers

A Feasibility Study of Ribbon Architecture for PEM Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Daniel F. Walczyk, Jaskaran S. Sangra

Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 7(5), 051001 (Jul 08, 2010) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4001758 History: Received July 14, 2008; Revised October 23, 2009; Published July 08, 2010; Online July 08, 2010

The feasibility of an alternative fuel cell architecture, called a ribbon membrane electrode assembly (MEA), is demonstrated for low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells used in portable power applications by comparing it to a traditional bipolar “stack” architecture. A ribbon MEA consists of adjacent PEM cells sharing a common gas diffusion layer to allow for lateral electrical current flow and an integral gas-tight, conductive interconnect/seal, where adjacent cells meet to prevent reactant gas leakage. The resulting lateral arrangement of MEAs can be used to supply all MEAs simultaneously instead of individual bipolar plates with flow fields for a stack. A pair of two-cell ribbon MEAs, with and without an interconnect/seal, were designed, prototyped, and sealed by thermal pressing. The MEAs were clamped in a two-piece box fixture to provide reactant gases on the anode and cathode sides, hooked to a fuel cell (FC) test stand and yielded an open circuit voltage (OCV) of 1.43 V with an interconnect/seal and 0.6 V without. A two-cell bipolar stack PEMFC with identical MEA specifications had an OCV of 1.86 V. Polarization curves for the ribbon MEA with interconnect/seal showed the sensitivity of performance to clamping pressure and positioning of the copper current collectors. The ribbon MEA polarization curve was also shifted downward by 0.42 V as compared with that of the traditional stack, and suspected causes (e.g., gas leaking) are attributable to the nonoptimal test fixture design. Hence, the ribbon MEA architecture is shown to be feasible. Future work suggested includes improvements to the test fixture design, development of automated manufacturing capabilities for high volume production, and demonstration of a multicell (>2) ribbon MEA PEMFC design.

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Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

PEMFC with a traditional bipolar architecture

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Figure 2

Ribbon MEA concept

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Figure 3

Planar PEMFC architecture in (a) banded and (b) flip-flop configurations

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Figure 4

Dimensions in centimeters of the two-cell ribbon architecture prototype with thicknesses exaggerated for clarities sake

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Figure 5

Frame and autoclave for MEA hot pressing

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Figure 6

Ribbon MEA (a) without gas-tight interconnect and (b) with interconnect

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Figure 7

(a) Model of the rapid prototyped ABS test fixture and (b) assembled test cell with hose fittings and current collectors installed

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Figure 8

Fuel cell test stand

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Figure 9

Ribbon MEA fuel cell voltage over time

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Figure 10

Three polarization curves for the ribbon MEA with interconnect/seal

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Figure 11

Polarization curves of the bipolar stack fuel cell and ribbon MEA fuel cell, test No. 2, both the original and shifted positions

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Figure 12

Possible ribbon MEA fuel cells using (a) star shape and (b) spiral configurations

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