A model-based parametric analysis of a direct ethanol polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell performance
In the present work, a model-based parametric analysis of the performance of a direct ethanol polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (DE-PEMFC) is conducted with the purpose to investigate the effect of several parameters on the cell's operation. The analysis is based on a previously validated one-dimensional mathematical model that describes the operation of a DE-PEMFC in steady state. More precisely, the effect of several operational and structural parameters on (i) the ethanol crossover rate from the anode to the cathode side of the cell, (ii) the parasitic current generation (mixed potential formation) and (iii) the total cell performance is investigated. According to the model predictions it was found that the increase of the ethanol feed concentration leads to higher ethanol crossover rates, higher parasitic currents and higher mixed potential values resulting in the decrease of the cell's power density. However there is an optimum ethanol feed concentration (approximately 1.0 mol L(-1)) for which the cell power density reaches its highest value. The platinum (Pt) loading of the anode and the cathode catalytic layers affects strongly the cell performance. Higher values of Pt loading of the catalytic layers increase the specific reaction surface area resulting in higher cell power densities. An increase of the anode catalyst loading compared to an equal one of the cathode catalyst loading has greater impact on the cell's power density. Another interesting finding is that increasing the diffusion layers' porosity up to a certain extent, improves the cell power density despite the fact that the parasitic current increases. This is explained by the fact that the reactants' concentrations over the catalysts are increased, leading to lower activation overpotential values, which are the main source of the total cell overpotentials. Moreover, the use of a thicker membrane leads to lower ethanol crossover rate, lower parasitic current and lower mixed potential values in comparison to the use of a thinner one. Finally, according to the model predictions when the cell operates at low current densities the use of a thick membrane is necessary to reduce the negative effect of the ethanol crossover. However, in the case where the cell operates at higher current densities (lower ethanol crossover rates) a thinner membrane reduces the ohmic overpotential leading to higher power density values. (C) 2009 Published by Elsevier B.V.