Model-based fuel cell design

Data processing – the essential first step

Fuel cell designers and system manufacturers face the challenge of interpreting large volumes of experimental data in order to design and optimise their products.

The problem is compounded by the fact that taking measurements from within the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is difficult, and embedding sensors within the MEA alters its performance.

Advanced process modelling provides an easy and reliable way to quantify micro-scale phenomena occurring within the MEA based on macro-scale experimental data as an essential first step in fuel stack and system design.

Using macroscale data to understand microscale phenomena

VI data – courtesy of Toyota Motor Co.

Using high-fidelity models coupled with experimental data results in a significant improvement in the understanding of phenomena at both the macroscopic and microscopic level.

This reduces R&D risk by enabling the design of more effective experiments which target the cause of performance and life time loss.

The data shown here is from a single-cell experiment, courtesy of Toyota Motor Co..

How it works

The diagram shows the workflow for estimating model parameters from experimental data.

Experimental workflow

The steps involved are as follows:

1. Conduct experiments

Experiments are typically conducted using a single coin-sized cell (4 cm2) if available, operating at overflow conditions at anode and cathode.

Current is varied over time, with all other operating conditions maintained constant, to generate polarisation curves.

Single-cell experiment
Single-cell experiment

2. Construct experiment model

A model of the stack or single cell used in the experiment is constructed in gFUELCELL, using standard library models. Where parameter values are known, these are entered in the specification dialog box. Unknown parameter values will be estimated in the next step.

3. Estimate parameters

gFUELCELL's parameter estimation capability is used to estimate key model parameters. Multiple parameters can be estimated from multiple steady-state and dynamic experiments simultaneously.

Single-cell experiment
Single-cell experiment

4. Analyse micro-scale phenomena

Once parameters have been determined, the model can be used to analyse microscale phenomena, providing invaluable information about phenomena such as overpotential and liquid water production.

Uncertainty analysis

Parameter estimation also provides a measure of the uncertainty inherent in the parameter values, in the form of confidence intervals.

This uncertainty information can be used to determine where to focus experimentation in order to minimise risk in the final design, thus providing an effective tool for managing technology risk over the development lifecycle.

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