PEMFC performance improvement through oxygen starvation prevention, modeling, and diagnosis of hydrogen leakage

Date created: 
Oxygen starvation
Hydrogen pumping
Leakage detection
Leakage quantification
Classifier and regressor

Catalyst degradation results in emerging pinholes in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs) and subsequently hydrogen leakage. Oxygen starvation resulting from hydrogen leaks is one of the primary life-limiting factors in PEMFCs. Voltage reduces as a result of oxygen starvation, and the cell performance deteriorates. Starved PEMFCs also work as a hydrogen pump, increasing the amount of hydrogen on the cathode side, resulting in hydrogen emissions. Therefore, it is important to delay the occurrence of oxygen starvation within the Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) while simultaneously be able to diagnose the hydrogen crossover through the pinholes. In this work, first, we focus on catalyst configuration as a novel method to prevent oxygen starvation and catalyst degradation. It is hypothesized that the redistribution of the platinum catalyst can increase the maximum current density and prevent oxygen starvation and catalyst degradation. Therefore, a multi-objective optimization problem is defined to maximize fuel cell efficiency and to prevent oxygen starvation in the PEMFC. Results indicate that the maximum current density rises about eight percent, while the maximum PEMFC power density increases by twelve percent. In the next step, a previously developed pseudo two-dimensional model is used to simulate fuel cell behavior in the normal and the starvation mode. This model is developed further to capture the effect of the hydrogen pumping phenomenon and to measure the amount of hydrogen in the outlet of the cathode channel. The results obtained from the model are compared with the experimental data, and validation shows that the proposed model is fast and precise. Next, Machine Learning (ML) estimators are used to first detect whether there is a hydrogen crossover in the fuel cell and second to capture the amount of hydrogen cross over. K Nearest Neighbour (KNN) and Artificial Neural Network (ANN) estimators are chosen for leakage detection and classification. Eventually, a pair of ANN classifier-regressor is chosen to first isolate leaky PEMFCs and then quantify the amount of leakage. The classifier and regressor are both trained on the datasets that are generated by the pseudo two-dimensional model. Different performance indexes are evaluated to assure that the model is not underfitting/overfitting. This ML diagnosis algorithm can be employed as an onboard diagnosis system that can be used to detect and possibly prevent cell reversal failures.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Krishna Vijayaraghavan
Applied Sciences: School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.