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Fuel Cells

Fuel Cells

The general goal is the design, operation and optimization of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cells and Direct Alcohol Fuel cells (Methanol and Ethanol), Micro fuel cells and Microbial fuel cells using both modelling and experimental approaches.

The main  activities in alcohol FCs adequate for portable applications: (i) Design and optimization of a micro passive direct methanol FCs (mpDMFC) and a passive direct ethanol FC (mpDEFC) with an optimized 2-phase flow pattern, lower cost and higher lifetime; (ii) development of new and low cost catalyst for the ethanol oxidation; (iii) Development of a 1D+2D/3D model with lower CPU times for a mDMFC to predict the multiphase flows and the effect of operating and design parameters; (iv) Development of two prototypes of a mDMFC to apply in a hearing aid and a pDEFC to charge a mobile phone.

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) can be advantageously combined with applications in wastewater treatment, by converting a variety of materials such as complex organic wastes or renewable biomass into electricity. The innovative strategy for bioelectrochemical systems is the MFC (treating a winery wastewater) optimization by articulating power output and wastewater treatment ability. The activities include: (i) selection of the best microorganism or consortia; (ii) optimize the MFC performance using a synthetic wastewater and (iii) use a real winery wastewater provided by SOGRAPE Vinhos SA.

The simulation and optimization activities, towards the design and development of more efficient and low cost PEM Fuel Cells with impact in the transport sector, are under way. The team developed a numerical model of a complete single-PEMFC where the volume of fluid (VOF) method is employed to describe the air-water two-phase flow in the cathode gas flow channels. The model also predicts the cell electrochemical performance under different operating conditions and cell designs. Additionally, a hybrid 1D + 3D domain is implemented to reduce the computational costs. The model was validated in terms of its ability to predict the two-phase flow patterns and the cell electrical output. A numerical model able to simulate, at the cell-scale and based on the continuum modelling approach, the degradation of PEMFC components is under development. The specific goal is to identify the location(s), along the cell active area, where the different components of the cell degrade most and analyze the effects of temperature heterogeneities and the species distribution.

The PEMFC-SUDOE project aiming at develop new PEMFCs and their applications to strategic sectors in SUDOE region, helps supporting the team’s research in this area.