|Dr. James Fenton
I’m pleased to let you know about an exciting new contract
FSEC has received to lead research and development activity for
the U.S. Department of Energy’s High Temperature, Low Relative
Humidity Membrane Program. The high temperature membrane (<150ºC)
is a key component of the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC).
This fuel cell will be the engine of our automobiles of tomorrow.
This is a program I’ve been very involved with for a number
of years and FSEC has received a major contract of $1,500,000 over
three years to conduct important research in this area and to play
a key role in coordinating the activities of the program’s
What’s most impressive in this, however, is that we’re
sitting in the driver’s seat of a $19 million DOE effort
that has funded 12 projects aimed at advancing membrane durability
and extending shelf-life while bringing down the costs. As the
program lead, we’ll be coordinating these
projects and playing a key role in directing the efforts of the
other participating universities in developing membranes that will
allow hydrogen to create electricity to power vehicles.
Increased performance and durability of membrane electrode assemblies
will improve the efficiency of automobile proton exchange membrane
fuel cells, a technology that offers great promise in dramatically
reducing our country’s dependence on foreign oil. This project
will let us work closely with a number of the country’s leading
researchers in fuel cells to advance the potential of this technology.
Proton exchange membrane fuel cells have been receiving a great
deal of attention worldwide because of their potential use in the
hydrogen economy. They are typically used at operating temperatures
between 60 – 80ºC, but also have use at elevated temperatures
higher than 100ºC. The ability for current automotive radiators
to reject heat is insufficient at continuous full power waste heat
loads for 60 – 80ºC fuel cell stack temperatures so
running the stack at 120ºC under full load would allow the
use of radiators similar to those available in automobiles today.
This has driven the need for the development of high-temperature
membranes and membrane electrode assemblies that could operate
at temperatures of up to 120ºC, low relative humidity and
near atmospheric pressure.
An FSEC research and development team will prepare and evaluate
new polymeric electrolyte phosphotungstic acid composite membranes.
FSEC researchers working with the fuel cell community will also
develop standardized experimental methodologies to measure conductivity
as a function of relative humidity and mechanical properties of
membranes; characterize mechanical, mass transport and surface
properties of the membranes, and predict durability of the membranes
and their membrane electrode assemblies fabricated by the team
for both the in-house research program and for membranes provided
by the High Temperature, Low Relative Humidity Membrane Working
FSEC will provide this group with standardized tests and methodologies
and short course education offerings on these test methodologies
along with membrane electrode assembly fabrication techniques so
that at the end of three years all members of the Group will be
able to perform this work in their own facility. An easily implemented
protocol and rapid test apparatus for evaluating the through-thickness
conductivity (or resistance) of membranes over a broad range of
conditions will be developed. FSEC will use our experience in developing
accredited standardized test methods for the solar thermal, photovoltaic
and building energy efficiency industries to support this activity.
In addition to the research activities, this project includes
organizing the meetings and activities of the High Temperature,
Low Relative Humidity Membrane Working Group by coordinating for
the bi-annual meetings. This is an important group in conducting
research in this field and we’re honored to be playing a
central role in coordinating activities of the nation’s leading
researchers in this technology.
More information on the High Technology Membrane Working Group
and their activities is available at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/htmwg.html.
NOTE: The other organizations selected to participate in these
research projects are the Colorado School of Mines, Pennsylvania
State University, Virginia Tech, Giner Electrochemical Systems,
University of Tennessee, Case Western Reserve University (two projects),
FuelCell Energy, Clemson University, General Electric (GE Global
Research), and Arizona State University. You can read more about
the overall program in DOE’s news release at http://www.energy.gov/news/3098.htm
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