Research Papers

A Metric for Characterization of Multifunctional Fuel Cell Designs

[+] Author and Article Information
Corydon D. Hilton1

U.S. Army Research Laboratory, 4600 Deer Creek Loop, APG, MD 21005cdhilton@vt.edu

Daniel M. Peairs

Luna Innovations Inc., 3157 State Street, Blacksburg, VA 24060peairsd@lunainnovations.com

John J. Lesko

Virginia Tech/VPT Energy Systems, 2200 Kraft Drive, Suite 1200C, Blacksburg, VA 24060jlesko@vpt-es.com

Scott W. Case

Virginia Tech, 212 Hancock Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061scase@vt.edu


Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 8(5), 051008 (Jun 17, 2011) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4003760 History: Received December 04, 2010; Revised February 13, 2011; Published June 17, 2011; Online June 17, 2011

The U.S. Army has investigated a variety of multifunctional designs in order to achieve system level mass and/or volume savings. One of the multifunctional devices developed is the multifunctional fuel cell (MFC)—a fuel cell which simultaneously provides a system with structural support and power generation. However, there are no established methods for measuring how well a particular design performs or its multifunctional advantage. The current paper presents a metric by which multifunctional fuel cell designs can be characterized. The mechanical aspect of the metric is based on the specific bending stiffness of the structural cell and is developed using Frostig’s high-order theory. The electrical component of the metric is based on the specific power density achieved by the structural cell. The structural systems considered here display multifunctional efficiencies ranging from 22% to 69%. The higher efficiency was obtained by optimizing the contact pressure at the gas diffusion layer (GDL) in a model cell design. The efficiencies obtained suggest the need for improved multifunctional designs in order to reach system level mass savings.

Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Pultrusion structural fuel cell system concept

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Figure 2

Geometry and loading details of sandwich structure: (a) Cross-sectional view of sandwich structure showing dimensions; (b) view along length of structure, including support and loading conditions. (Note: Half symmetry is used in this illustration.)

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Figure 3

Midplane (a) shear and (b) transverse normal stress distributions in VARTM cell for a 3-point loading case with a concentrated central load of 6000 N

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Figure 4

Components of carbon foam fuel cell design

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Figure 5

Polarization curves for the fuel cell designs

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Figure 6

Multifunctional efficiencies of the fuel cell designs (VARTM cell: σmf   = 0.47, Pultrusion cell: σmf   = 0.22, KFOAM cell: σmf   = 0.69)



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