The Effects of Reforming Byproducts on PEM Fuel Cell Performance

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Hotz, Nico

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One of the main goals of the Thermodynamics and Sustainable Energy Laboratory at Duke University is to create a Hybrid Solar System (HSS). The HSS is to consist of four main processes: solar steam reformation, fuel cleaning via a preferential oxidation reactor (PROX), hydrogen storage, and a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC).

The key goal of this research is to determine whether it is feasible to run this PEMFC on the expected gas mixture from the solar steam reformer after it is cleaned by the PROX (75% H2 and 25% CO2) with no significant power loss and no long-term damage to the fuel cell catalyst.

Findings were that even if the gas mixture input to the PEMFC consisted of 30% carbon dioxide and 70% hydrogen, the PEMFC would continue to operate as if the flow were 100% hydrogen with no negative long term effects to the PEMFC.

The PROX was then added to the setup and the expected gas mixture (from the solar collector) was run through the system. The results demonstrated that if the PROX achieves the expected 100% conversion (removal of the carbon monoxide to the necessary level of < 10 ppm), the PEMFC should handle the expected cleaned flow as if it were 100% hydrogen.

The findings in this research provide validation of the overall concept of the HSS.





Craft, Justin Thomas (2014). The Effects of Reforming Byproducts on PEM Fuel Cell Performance. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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