Analysis of the environmental impact on the design of fuel cells

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Sibiya, Petros Mandla
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The air-breathing Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) and Zinc Air Fuel Cell (ZAFC)were experimentally studied in a climate chamber in order to investigate the impact of climatic environmental parameters such as varying temperature and relative humidity conditions on their performance. The experimental results presented in the form of polarization curves and discharge characteristic curves indicated that these parameters have a significant effect on the performance of these fuel cells. The results showed that temperature levels below 0ºc are not suitable for the operation of these fuel cells. Instead, it was found that air-breathing DMFC is favored by high temperature conditions while both positive and negative effects were noticed for the air-breathing ZAFC. The results of the varying humidity conditions showed a negative impact on the air-breathing DMFC at a lower temperature level but a performance increase was noticed at a higher temperature level. For air-breathing ZAFC, the effect of humidity on the performance was also found to be influence by the operating temperature. Furthermore, common atmospheric air pollutants such as N20, S02, CO and N02 were experimentally investigated on the air-breathing DMFC and ZAFC. At the concentration of 20 ppm, these air contaminants showed to have a negative effect on the performance of both air-breathing DMFC and ZAFC. For both air-breathing DMFC and ZAFC, performance degradations were found to be irreversible. It is therefore evident from this research that the performance of the air-breathing fuel cell will be affected in an application situated in a highly air-polluted area such as Vaal Triangle or Southern Durban. It is recommended the air-breathing fuel cell design include air filters to counter the day-to-day variations in concentration of air pollutants.
Thesis (M. Tech. Engineering: Electrical--Vaal University of Technology)
Fuel cells, Direct methanol fuel cell, Zinc Air Fuel Cell