Development of methanol evaporation plate to reduce methanol crossover in a direct methanol fuel cell

Date of Completion

January 2006


Engineering, Chemical|Energy




This research focuses on methanol crossover reduction in direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) through separating the methanol vapor from its liquid phase and feeding the vapor passively at low temperature range. Membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) were fabricated by using commercial available membrane with different thickness at different anode catalyst loading levels, and tested under the operating conditions below 100°C in cell temperature and cathode exit open to ambient pressure.^ Liquid methanol transport from the anode through the membrane into cathode ("methanol crossover") is identified as one of the major efficiency losses in a DMFC. It is known that the methanol crossover rate in the vapor phase is much lower than in liquid phase. Vapor feed can be achieved by heating the liquid methanol to elevated temperatures (>100°C), but other issues limit the performance of the cell when operating above 100°C. High temperature membranes and much more active cathode catalyst structures are required, and a complex temperature control system must be employed. However, methanol vapor feed can also occur at a lower temperature range (<100°C) by separating its vapor from the liquid phase by evaporation through a porous body. The methanol crossover with this vapor feed mode is lower compared with the direct liquid methanol feed. A new method of using a methanol evaporation plate (MEP) to separate the vapor from its liquid phase to reduce the liquid methanol crossover at low temperature range is developed. A MEP plays the roles of liquid/vapor methanol phase separation and evaporation in a DMFC. The goal of this study is to develop a MEP with the proper properties to achieve high methanol phase separation efficiency and fast methanol evaporation rate over a wide range of temperature, i.e., from room temperature up to near boiling temperature (100°C).^ MEP materials were selected and characterized. MEPs made from three different types were tested extensively with different MEA and porous back layer configurations. The benefits of using MEP were evaluated and the fuel cell performance enhancement and the rate reduced of methanol crossover were determined. ^