Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Brice N. Cassenti, Michael T. Pettes

Field of Study

Mechanical Engineering


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Fuel cells and other electrochemical energy storage and conversion technologies are increasingly being used as clean energy alternatives for mobile and stationary power generation. The viability of fuel cells as a marketable energy source continues to benefit from improvements in performance, longevity, and cost. Each of these factors is intimately linked to the performance of materials which constitute these systems, leading to significant research dedicated to optimization of underlying fuel cell components and materials. A commonality among fuel cell types is their reliance on effective transport of ions, electrons, and gases through three-dimensional transport networks that have complex underlying structures, often on the micro- and nano-scales. The present work is dedicated to aiding in fuel cell materials design by developing methods which elucidate the role of three-dimensional microstructure in transport. Digital representations of fuel cell material microstructure are first obtained by either a) artificially generating ideal structures that mimic the behavior of the real system or b) imaging real microstructure samples by a three-dimensional imaging technique, synchrotron-based x-ray nanotomography. An existing charge transport model, called Electrochemical Fin Theory, based on extended surface fin analysis is then adapted for the study of three-dimensional structures relevant to solid oxide and electrospun polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. The application and validation of this electrochemical fin modeling approach showcases the benefits of using this technique, which include sensitivity to local inhomogeneities, and significantly reduced computational requirements when compared to traditional mesh-based numerical simulations.

Major Advisor

Wilson K.S. Chiu