University of Delaware Department of Mechanical Engineering Fuel Cell Research Laboratory

Transport Processes in Direct Methanol Fuel Cells
Srikanth Arisetty, PhD student

Professor Ajay K Prasad
Professor Suresh G Advani

   The transport processes of methanol on the anode side in direct methanol fuel cell influence the overall performance. These processes include: - (i) Convection and diffusion of methanol from the dilute feed to the catalyst sites. (ii) The two phase flow carbon-dioxide evolved from the reaction with the methanol (iii) Methanol crossing over from the anode to the cathode. The power achieved will be a function of the above phenomena. These processes can be controlled by various design parameters, such as flow fields, gas diffusion layer and operating conditions etc. So, our research goal is to investigate the effect of these phenomena to improve the performance

   Our first project involved the study of transport process through metal foams in direct methanol fuel cells. Open cellular metal foams possess good structural and conductive properties, transport properties and can therefore be used in place of bipolar plates in fuel cells. Such foams would facilitate the flow of reactants and products, collect current, and also provide stiffness to the composite structure. Here, we investigate the performance of a DMFC incorporating metal foam. A systematic study to understand the mass transfer in the foam as compared with serpentine channels was conducted by designing and fabricating a transparent fuel cell (Figure 1). A parametric study in which the role of variables such as foam pore size and pore density in the through-thickness direction (which changes the in-plane permeability) will be explored.  This will help characterize the foams on the basis of electrical performance and gas management characteristics.  The two-phase dynamics of methanol and CO2 bubbles, and overall electrical performance, will provide guidelines to design and fabricate composite foams with varying pore sizes across the thickness to optimize the performance.

Transparent Fuel Cell

DMFC Performance Curve
Figure 2: DMFC performance curve using different flow fields, operated with air. Anode flow is 2M-methanol solution, 4 ml/min at 50°C. Cathode airflow rate is 0.4 slpm.

Photo Gallery

Principal Investigators
Dr. Ajay Prasad
Dr. Suresh Advani
  126 Spencer Laboratory - Newark, DE - 19716 - phone: 302-831-2421