Research Papers

Analysis of a Permselective Membrane-Free Alkaline Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell

[+] Author and Article Information
Amir Faghri

e-mail: faghri@engr.uconn.edu

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of Connecticut,
Storrs, CT 06269

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF FUEL CELL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received August 5, 2013; final manuscript received October 22, 2013; published online December 5, 2013. Editor: Nigel M. Sammes.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 11(2), 021009 (Dec 05, 2013) (10 pages) Paper No: FC-13-1071; doi: 10.1115/1.4025931 History: Received August 05, 2013; Revised October 22, 2013

A physical model is developed to study the coupled mass and charge transport in a permselective membrane-free alkaline direct ethanol fuel cell. This type of fuel cell is not only free of expensive ion exchange membranes and platinum based catalysts, but also features a facile oxygen reduction reaction due to the presence of alkaline electrolyte. The proposed model is first validated by comparing its predictions to the experimental results from literature and then used to predict the overall performance of the cell and reveal the details of ion transport, distribution of electrolyte potential and current density. It is found that: (1) KOH concentration lower than 1 M notably impairs cell performance due to low electrolyte conductivity; (2) the concentration gradient and electrical field are equally important in driving ion transport in the electrolyte; (3) the current density distributions in the anode and cathode catalyst layers keep nonuniform due to different reasons. In the anode, it is caused by the ethanol concentration gradient, while in the cathode it is because of the electrolyte potential gradient; and (4) at low cell voltage, current density distribution in the catalyst layer shows stronger nonlinearity in the anode than in the cathode.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Your Session has timed out. Please sign back in to continue.


Yu, E. H., Krewer, U., and Scott, K., 2010, “Principles and Materials Aspects of Direct Alkaline Alcohol Fuel Cells,” Energies, 3(8), pp. 1499–1528. [CrossRef]
Zhang, R. M., Pope, J., and Pan, Y. H., 2011, “Permselective Membrane-Free Direct Fuel Cell and Components Thereof,” U.S. Patent No. 2011/0123902 A1.
Li, Y. S., Zhao, T. S., and Liang, Z. X., 2009, “Effect of Polymer Binders in Anode Catalyst Layer on Performance of Alkaline Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells,” J. Power Sources, 190(2), pp. 223–229. [CrossRef]
Li, Y. S., Zhao, T. S., and Liang, Z. X., 2009, “Performance of Alkaline Electrolyte-Membrane-Based Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells,” J. Power Sources, 187(2), pp. 387–392. [CrossRef]
Lue, S. J., Pan, W.-H., Chang, C.-M., and Liu, Y.-L., 2012, “High-Performance Direct Methanol Alkaline Fuel Cells Using Potassium Hydroxide-Impregnated Polyvinyl Alcohol/Carbon Nano-Tube Electrolytes,” J. Power Sources, 202, pp. 1–10. [CrossRef]
Jamard, R., Latour, A., Salomon, J., Capron, P., and Martinent-Beaumont, A., 2008, “Study of Fuel Efficiency in a Direct Borohydride Fuel Cell,” J. Power Sources, 176(1), pp. 287–292. [CrossRef]
Mench, M. M., 2008, Fuel Cell Engines, Wiley, New York.
Verma, A., and Basu, S., 2005, “Direct Use of Alcohols and Sodium Borohydride as Fuel in an Alkaline Fuel Cell,” J. Power Sources, 145(2), pp. 282–285. [CrossRef]
Verma, A., and Basu, S., 2007, “Experimental Evaluation and Mathematical Modeling of a Direct Alkaline Fuel Cell,” J. Power Sources, 168(1 SPEC. ISS.), pp. 200–210. [CrossRef]
Sprague, I. B., and Dutta, P., 2011, “Modeling of Diffuse Charge Effects in a Microfluidic Based Laminar Flow Fuel Cell,” Numer. Heat Transfer, Part A, 59(1), pp. 1–27. [CrossRef]
Jo, J. H., Moon, S. K., and Yi, S. C., 2000, “Simulation of Influences of Layer Thicknesses in an Alkaline Fuel Cell,” J. Appl. Electrochem., 30(9), pp. 1023–1031. [CrossRef]
Jo, J. H., and Yi, S. C., 1999, “A Computational Simulation of an Alkaline Fuel Cell,” J. Power Sources, 84(1), pp. 87–106. [CrossRef]
Bahrami, H., and Faghri, A., 2012, “Multi-Layer Membrane Model for Mass Transport in a Direct Ethanol Fuel Cell Using an Alkaline Anion Exchange Membrane,” J. Power Sources, 218, pp. 286–296. [CrossRef]
Bahrami, H., and Faghri, A., 2012, “Start-up and Steady-State Operation of a Passive Vapor-Feed Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Fed With Pure Methanol,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 37(10), pp. 8641–8658. [CrossRef]
Bahrami, H., and Faghri, A., 2011, “Water Management in a Passive DMFC Using Highly Concentrated Methanol Solution,” ASME J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol., 8(2), p. 021011. [CrossRef]
Liang, Z. X., Zhao, T. S., Xu, J. B., and Zhu, L. D., 2009, “Mechanism Study of the Ethanol Oxidation Reaction on Palladium in Alkaline Media,” Electrochim. Acta, 54(8), pp. 2203–2208. [CrossRef]
Faghri, A., and Zhang, Y., 2006, Transport Phenomena in Multiphase Systems, Elsevier, New York.
Bahrami, H., and Faghri, A., 2010, “Transient Analysis of a Passive Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Using Pure Methanol,” J. Electrochem. Soc., 157(12), pp. B1762–B1776. [CrossRef]
Faghri, A., Zhang, Y. W., and Howell, J., 2010, Advanced Heat and Mass Transfer, Global Digital Press, Columbia, MO.
Zhang, L., Wang, Q., Liu, Y. C., and Zhang, L. Z., 2006, “On the Mutual Diffusion Properties of Ethanol-Water Mixtures,” J. Chem. Phys., 125(10), p. 104502. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Koryta, J., Dvorak, J., and Kavan, L., 1993, Principles of Electrochemistry, Wiley, New York.
Bhatia, R. N., Gubbins, K. E., and Walker, R. D., 1968, “Mutual Diffusion in Concentrated Aqueous Potassium Hydroxide Solutions,” Trans. Faraday Soc., 64, pp. 2091–2099. [CrossRef]
Quist, A. S., and Marshall, W. L., 1965, “Assignment of Limiting Equivalent Conductances for Single Ions to 400 Deg,” J. Phys. Chem., 69(9), pp. 2984–2987. [CrossRef]
Bard, A. J., and Faulkner, L. R., 2001, Electrochemical Methods: Fundamentals and Applications, Wiley, New York.
Gilliam, R. J., Graydon, J. W., Kirk, D. W., and Thorpe, S. J., 2007, “A Review of Specific Conductivities of Potassium Hydroxide Solutions for Various Concentrations and Temperatures,” Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 32, pp. 359–364. [CrossRef]
Patankar, S., 1980, Numerical Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow, Taylor & Francis, London.
Bahrami, H., and Faghri, A., 2011, “Exergy Analysis of a Passive Direct Methanol Fuel Cell,” J. Power Sources, 196(3), pp. 1191–1204. [CrossRef]
Newman, J. S., 1991, Electrochemical Systems, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.


Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Structure of a PMF-ADEFC

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Possible scenarios of electrolyte potential and electrolyte concentration distribution at the reservoir-ADL boundary

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Comparison of the predictions by this study and the experimental results of Ref. [2] (CE,res = 2.4 M, CKOH,res = 1 M, ambient air, 313 K)

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Influence of ethanol concentration on performance

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Influence of KOH concentration on polarization

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 6

Overpotential breakdown

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Distribution of ethanol concentration for various cell voltages

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 8

Distribution of oxygen concentration for various cell voltages

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Distribution of normalized (a) oxidation reaction rate in the ACL and (b) reduction reaction rate in the CCL

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 10

Distribution of electrolyte potential

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 11

Distribution of KOH concentration

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 12

Diffusion and migration molar flux of (a) K+ and (b) OH ions under various voltages

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 13

Change of fuel utilization with different cell voltage

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 14

Influence of separator thickness



Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging and repositioning the boxes below.

Related Journal Articles
Related eBook Content
Topic Collections

Sorry! You do not have access to this content. For assistance or to subscribe, please contact us:

  • TELEPHONE: 1-800-843-2763 (Toll-free in the USA)
  • EMAIL: asmedigitalcollection@asme.org
Sign In