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Adiabatic Fuel Cell Stack

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing SummaryAdiabatic fuel cell stacks are simple, low-cost and reliable. Operating at near-ambient pressure, their efficiency and net power density make them competitive with more complex pressurized systems. This technology has been extensively tested and is ready for immediate commercialization. DescriptionAdiabatic fuel cell stacks are simple, low-cost and reliable. Operating at near-ambient pressure, their efficiency and net power density make them competitive with more complex pressurized systems. Two Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) innovations enable adiabatic stacks. The first is direct humidification of the fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with liquid water. The second innovation relates to the operation of the fuel cell stack at very-near-ambient pressure. LANL is pleased to offer both enabling technologies non-exclusively to industry partners.

Direct MEA humidification is made possible through the introduction of an anode-wicking backing that conveys liquid water from the anode flow-field plenum through the nominally hydrophobic gas diffusion layer directly to the membrane throughout the active area. During the normal operation of this well-humidified fuel cell stack with a dry, ambient temperature cathode air inlet, the airstream becomes heated and saturated with water vapor as it passes through the cells. This effect provides in situ evaporative cooling of the stack, eliminating the need for separate cooling systems or in-stack cooling plates. The non-isothermal stack operation and evaporative cooling result in an “adiabatic” stack. The simplicity of the adiabatic system is easy to appreciate when compared to the conventional system, with its extensive flow and control elements (see figure).
BenefitsFewer components
Lower cost balance of plant
Operation at atmospheric pressure
Rapid start-up
Applications and IndustriesAuxiliary power (1-5kW)
Distributed power
Marine power
Transportation
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Date
Patent 5,952,119
Patent
5,952,119
Fuel cell membrane humidification
A polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell assembly has an anode side and a cathode side separated by the membrane and generating electrical current by electrochemical reactions between a fuel gas and an oxidant. The anode side comprises a hydrophobic gas diffusion backing contacting one side of the membrane and having hydrophilic areas therein for providing liquid water directly to the one side of the membrane through the hydrophilic areas of the gas diffusion backing. In a preferred embodiment, the hydrophilic areas of the gas diffusion backing are formed by sewing a hydrophilic thread through the backing. Liquid water is distributed over the gas diffusion backing in distribution channels that are separate from the fuel distribution channels.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 09/14/1999
Issued
Patent 6,117,577
Patent
6,117,577
Ambient pressure fuel cell system
An ambient pressure fuel cell system is provided with a fuel cell stack formed from a plurality of fuel cells having membrane/electrode assemblies (MEAs) that are hydrated with liquid water and bipolar plates with anode and cathode sides for distributing hydrogen fuel gas and water to a first side of each one of the MEAs and air with reactant oxygen gas to a second side of each one of the MEAs. A pump supplies liquid water to the fuel cells. A recirculating system may be used to return unused hydrogen fuel gas to the stack. A near-ambient pressure blower blows air through the fuel cell stack in excess of reaction stoichiometric amounts to react with the hydrogen fuel gas.
Los Alamos National Laboratory 09/12/2000
Issued
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
S82644; S89615DevelopmentAvailable07/14/201007/27/2010

Contact LANL About This Technology

To: Marcus Lucero<marcus@lanl.gov> <tmt-2@lanl.gov>