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Mathematical modeling and experimental validation of thin low platinum content and functionally graded cathode catalyst layers Open Access


Other title
oxygen partial pressure
mathematical model
membrane electrode assembly
platinum loading
back pressure
functionally graded
polymer electrolyte fuel cells
low loading
ionomer loading
finite element method
thin electrode
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Domican, Kailyn P
Supervisor and department
Secanell, Marc (Mechanical Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Luo, Jingli (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Secanell, Marc (Mechanical Engineering)
Doucette, John (Mechanical Engineering)
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Low catalyst content remains a key requirement for the commercialization of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) into the energy, transportation, and material handling sectors. Understanding the fundamental phenomena reducing fuel cell performance at various stages of operation play a major role in PEFC optimization and reducing catalyst content. In this thesis, high performance PEFCs with low to moderate Pt loadings (27 - 112 μgPt/cm2) have been fabricated using inkjet printing. To better understand thin low Pt content electrodes the PEFCs are tested at various back pressures, relative humidity, and oxygen partial pressures. The characterized PEFCs are then simulated using OpenFCST, an open-source FEM based fuel cell simulation framework, to aid in the investigation of key performance limiting phenomena. The simulations are obtained using a macro-homogeneous, non-isothermal MEA model where a multi-step reaction kinetics describes the oxygen reduction reaction. The model is then validated against the experimental Pt loading, ionomer loading, and oxygen partial pressure study. The successfully validated model highlighted key performance limitations between low Pt content and conventional (400 μgPt/cm2) loading electrodes, while also highlighting the possible phenomena dictating ionomer and oxygen partial pressure performance. A mathematical model is also developed allowing the simulation of functionally graded electrodes. The model is then used to aid experimental design. To validate the new model two functionally graded ionomer electrodes are fabricated, characterized, and compared to the simulated results.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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