Research Papers

Experimental Investigation on the Performance of a Formic Acid Electrolyte-Direct Methanol Fuel Cell

[+] Author and Article Information
David Ouellette

e-mail: davidouellette@cmail.carleton.ca

Edgar Matida

Department of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering,
Carleton University,
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF FUEL CELL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received August 27, 2013; final manuscript received September 23, 2013; published online December 4, 2013. Editor: Nigel M. Sammes.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 11(2), 021003 (Dec 04, 2013) (8 pages) Paper No: FC-13-1077; doi: 10.1115/1.4025933 History: Received August 27, 2013; Revised September 23, 2013

The performance of a new methanol fuel cell that utilizes a liquid formic acid electrolyte, named the formic acid electrolyte-direct methanol fuel cell (FAE-DMFC) is experimentally investigated. This fuel cell type has the capability of recycling/washing away methanol, without the need of methanol-electrolyte separation. Three fuel cell configurations were examined: a flowing electrolyte and two circulating electrolyte configurations. From these three configurations, the flowing electrolyte and the circulating electrolyte, with the electrolyte outlet routed to the anode inlet, provided the most stable power output, where minimal decay in performance and less than 3% and 5.6% variation in power output were observed in the respective configurations. The flowing electrolyte configuration also yielded the greatest power output by as much as 34%. Furthermore, for the flowing electrolyte configuration, several key operating conditions were experimentally tested to determine the optimal operating points. It was found that an inlet concentration of 2.2 M methanol and 6.5 M formic acid, as along with a cell temperature of 52.8 °C provided the best performance. Since this fuel cell has a low optimal operating temperature, this fuel cell has potential applications for handheld portable devices.

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Fig. 1

Layout of the individual layers within the tested fuel cell

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Fig. 2

Fully assembled fuel cell

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Fig. 3

Schematic of the experimental setup for three different fuel cell configurations, labeled with (a), (b), and (c). Configuration (a) is the flowing electrolyte configuration, configuration (b) is the circulating electrolyte configuration, with the FE outlet routed to the anode inlet, and configuration (c) is the circulating electrolyte configuration, with the FE outlet recirculated back to the FE inlet.

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Fig. 4

Estimated uncertainty in the polarization curves for the baseline operating conditions

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Fig. 5

Estimated uncertainty in the conductivity measurements under baseline operating conditions, for the case of 5 M formic acid and varying temperature and 80 °C and varying concentration

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Fig. 6

Effect of cell temperature on the polarization curve of the FAE-DMFC

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Fig. 7

Maximum power output Pmax with respect to cell temperature T in the range of 40 °C to 80 °C

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Fig. 8

Temperature dependence on the conductivity of various concentrations of formic acid solutions

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Fig. 9

Maximum power output Pmax for 1 M to 10 M inlet formic acid concentrations CFA

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Fig. 10

Conductivity profile for various formic acid concentrations and temperatures

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Fig. 11

Fuel cell performance for various methanol concentrations

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Fig. 12

Maximum power Pmax achieved for inlet methanol concentrations CMeOH from 1 M to 4 M

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Fig. 13

Conductivity of formic acid with various concentrations of dissolved sodium sulfate

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Fig. 14

Performance of the FAE-DMFC with various concentrations of dissolved sodium sulfate

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Fig. 15

Transient performance of three configurations of the FAE-DMFC

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Fig. 16

Performance of each configuration after the transient test




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