Optimisation of the hydrogen pressure control in a regenerative proton exchange membrane fuel cell

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Burger, Melanie
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Industrial countries, such as South Africa, rely heavily on energy sources to function profitably in today’s economy. Based on the 2008 fossil fuel CO2 emissions South Africa was rated the 13th largest emitting country and also the largest emitting country on the continent of Africa, and is still increasing. It was found that fuel cells can be used to generate electricity and that hydrogen is a promising fuel source. A fuel cell is an energy generation device that uses pure hydrogen (99.999%) and oxygen as a fuel to produce electric power. A regenerative fuel cell is a fuel cell that runs in reverse mode, which consumes electricity and water to produce hydrogen. This research was aimed at designing and constructing an optimised control system to control the hydrogen pressure in a proton exchange membrane regenerative fuel cell. The hydrogen generated by the fuel cell must be stored in order to be used at a later stage to produce electricity. A control system has been designed and constructed to optimise the hydrogen pressure control in a regenerative proton exchange membrane fuel cell. An experiment that was done to optimise the hydrogen system included the effects that the cathode chamber pressure has on the production of hydrogen and the most effective method of supplying hydrogen to a storage tank. The experiment also included the effects of a hydrogen buffer tank on the output hydrogen pressure and if the system can accommodate different output pressures. It was found that the cathode chamber pressure doesn’t need to be controlled because it has no effect on the rate of hydrogen produced. The results also showed that the flow of hydrogen need not to be controlled to be stored in a hydrogen storage tank, the best method is to let the produced hydrogen flow freely into the tank. The hydrogen produced was also confirmed to be 99.999% pure. The system was also tested at different output pressures; the control system successfully regulated these different output pressures.
Thesis (M. Tech. - (Engineering: Electrical, Department: Electronic Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology))--Vaal University of Technology.
Fuel cells, Fuel cells, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Regenerative fuel cells, Hydrogen pressure control system, Proton exchange membrane regenerative fuel cell, Hydrogen production