Heavy duty fuel cells used in transportation system applications such as transit buses expose the fuel cell membranes to conditions that can lead to lifetime-limiting membrane failure via combined chemical and mechanical degradation. Highly durable membranes and reliable predictive models are therefore needed in order to achieve the heavy duty fuel cell lifetime target of 18,000 h. In the present work, an empirical membrane lifetime model was developed based on laboratory data from a suite of accelerated membrane durability tests. The model considers the effects of cell voltage, temperature, oxygen concentration, humidity cycling, humidity level, and platinum in the membrane using inverse power law and exponential relationships within the framework of a general log-linear Weibull life-stress statistical distribution. The obtained model is capable of extrapolating the membrane lifetime from accelerated test conditions to use level conditions during field operation. Based on typical conditions for the Whistler, British Columbia fuel cell transit bus fleet, the model predicts a stack lifetime of 17,500 h and a membrane leak initiation time of 9,200 h. Validation performed with the aid of a field operated stack confirmed the initial goal of the model to predict membrane lifetime within 20% of the actual operating time.
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Thesis advisor: Kjeang, Erik
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