Investigation of the Effect of Catalyst Layer Composition on the Performance of PEM Fuel Cells
Russell, Jason Bradley
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The catalyst layer of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell is a porous mixture of polymer, carbon, and platinum. The characteristics of the catalyst layer play a critical role in determining the performance of the PEM fuel cell. In this research, sample membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) are prepared using various combinations of polymer and carbon loadings while the platinum catalyst surface area is held constant. For each MEA, polarization curves are determined at common operating conditions. The polarization curves are compared to assess the effects of the catalyst layer composition. The results show that both Nafion and carbon content significantly affect MEA performance. The physical characteristics of the catalyst layer including porosity, thickness, active platinum surface area, ohmic resistance, and apparent Nafion film thickness are investigated to explain the variation in performance. The results show that for the range of compositions considered in this work, the most important factors are the platinum surface area and the apparent Nafion film thickness.
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