Fuel Cells

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells

A fuel cell is defined as an electrochemical device that can continuously convert chemical energy into electrical energy. Typically, hydrogen is the fuel consumed at the anode; oxygen (usually from air) is consumed at the cathode. The proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) has attracted quite a lot of attention in recent years due to its high power density at low temperatures (< 100°C). The proton exchange membrane (PEM) serves as a physical barrier between the anode and cathode gases and also as the electrolyte (hence it is also known as a solid polymer electrolyte). Typically, electrodes are hot-bonded to each side of the membrane to form the membrane and electrode assembly (MEA).

There are, however, several hurdles that must be overcome before fuel cells can become a commercially viable technology on a large scale. Cost is one such factor. The required catalyst, membrane and cell hardware (e.g. bipolar plates) are expensive, resulting in a very high initial cost. Also, hydrogen storage requires a large (weight and volume) storage system. This reduces the operational range of portable fuel cell devices.

Work in our lab focuses on various chemical aspects of the membrane, electrode structure and electrocatalyst. The goal of understanding what factors influence performance and find ways to enhance performance and/or reduce cost.

For more details of specific projects, please follow the links below.