PITA Fiscal Year 2007 Projects

Environmental Technologies

Simulation and Optimization of PEM Fuel Cells
In the past decade, research and development activities for commercialization of fuel cell (FC) systems, which can act as a potential power source for stationary, portable electronic devices, automotive systems and also in power plants, have increased rapidly. Compared to conventional battery systems, the advantages of these systems are high operating efficiency (less dependent on system size), near-zero greenhouse emissions, operation on renewable fuels, reliable operation, and nearly instantaneous recharge capabilities. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) FCs have received considerable attention owing to their higher power densities over the other types of FCs. We focus on H2 PEMFC out of the two types of PEMFCs, i.e., H2 PEMFC and direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs), both of which utilize PEM to transfer protons.

Our objective is to construct simulation and optimization tools for FCs that take into account not only gas, water, and fuel management, but also the catalytic reaction and heat, mass & momentum transfer. We adopt a multiscale & multiphysics systems approach, which includes nanoscale (e.g., PEM), microscale (e.g., interfacial region of reactant, electrolyte, electronic conductor, and membrane-electrode assembly), and macroscale (e.g., flow field). Optimization will be employed at all scales; however, our focus during next year will be on the performance, energy efficiency, and cost-competitiveness. We will perform sensitivity analysis for identification of critical parameters and develop optimization scheme using ‘a modeling language for mathematical programming’ (AMPL) linked to our in-house code ‘interior point optimizer’ (IPOPT). Our preliminary results on the DMFC system have shown great promise in the application of optimization techniques in the FC area. Further improvements in both the physical and numerical aspects are proposed to provide guidelines for the production and operation of FCs to achieve their commercialization.