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Fuel Cell Research Activities at CEET

College of Engineering and Engineering Technology has devoted its attention and resources to advance Fuel Cell research towards a global solution for energy crisis our society is facing. Our primary foci are in the following areas:

  1. Design and development of Affordable Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC)
  2. Design & Development of  Flow Field for PEMFC through computer simulation
  3. Vehicle Transit Power Conditioning utilizing combined power of fuel cell and battery
  4. Introduction of Fuel Cell Science & Technology in Undergraduate & Graduate Education
  5. Hands on Experience on the Fuel Cell Technology by Undergraduate students through Senior Design project
  6. Public awareness through Demonstration of Fuel Cell Vehicle around the campus and community
  7. Publicizing Fuel Cell and Fuel Cell Technology to High  School in Illinois

 

Design and development of Affordable PEMFC

To operate fuel cell, platinum is used as the electro-catalyst. Commercial catalysts contain large quantities of platinum. However, due the cost of the precious metal and its limited worldwide reserve, we must either reduce the amounts of platinum required as electro-catalysts or create other inexpensive non-precious metal catalysts for making cost effective and affordable fuel cell. Dr. Bose and her students are devoted to make thin-film electrodes that utilize substantially less platinum than commercial electrodes. They have succeeded in making new test electrodes that contain one-tenth of commercially available electrode by reductive electropolymerization technique. Currently, they are preparing membrane electrode assembly, testing durability, and evaluating cell performance and kinetic parameters. A Scanning Electron Microscope Image of this thin-film electrode indicating a mono-layer platinum coverage on a carbon surface by platinum nano-particles.

 

Design & Development of Flow Field for PEMFC through computer simulation

Professor Majumdar and his group are designing and developing a new high performance bi-polar plates and demonstrating the simulated the performance of the PEM fuel cell (PEMFC) using this bi-polar plates for transportation applications. In order to achieve this goal the basic geometry of the bipolar plates is constructed using Pro-E solid modeling software. The models are first fabricated in plastic models using Rapid Prototyping Machine FDM. This is primarily done to get better understanding of the construction of the proposed design. The developing flow field and transport equations in the gas flow channels are solved using computational code Fluent. Major objectives are to obtain pressure drop characteristics and convective coefficients for heat and mass transport that are essential for the PEM simulation model. Results are analyzed to evaluate the performance of the different bi-polar plate designs in terms of pressure drops and convective heat and mass transfer coefficients. Simulated results are presented in terms of contour and vector plots in order to demonstrate the performance of the design through visualization.

 

Vehicle Transit Power Conditioning utilizing combined power of fuel cell and battery

The main objective of the work being performed by Dr. Zinger is to apply a combined use of ultracapacitors and batteries as additional energy sources in fuel cell powered vehicles. Variations on a basic power distribution scheme are being developed for transferring energy between the different circuit elements. The overall goal is to develop a technique for optimizing a power system.

A combination of ultracapacitors and batteries along with a fuel call may lead to a better solution than just either of the devices alone. With such a system the batteries can supply the high power density required for long term energy storage while the capacitors can be used to improve the peak power capabilities. It is expected to determine a system with improved performance while maintaining high efficiency and without the need for oversized fuel cells and battery stacks. This would make highly efficient passenger vehicle more acceptable to the general public.

 

Introduction of Fuel Cell Science and Technology in Undergraduate & Graduate Education

Two Fuel Cell Technology courses have been developed by Dr. Bose and Professor Majumdar. Dr. Bose’s course contents include the fundamentals of electrochemical cells, thermodynamic properties, energy output, kinetic barriers, solid electrolytes, transport properties, membranes and other materials, current challenges in the field, and the future outlook. A number of fundamental experiments to augment the course’s theoretical subjects are also introduced in this course.

 

Public awareness through Demonstration of Fuel Cell Vehicle around the campus and community

To make public awareness of this important technological development, we have developed partnership with Georgetown University Transit Bus Program. We plan to bring a fuel cell bus from Georgetown University to NIU and surrounding community to generate public support through this demonstration project.

 

Publicizing Fuel Cell and Fuel Cell Technology to High Schools in Illinois

We are engaging our faculty and high school science teachers in disseminating fuel cell technology through seminars, demonstrations, and sending posters to interested students. This poster is being designed by highlighting current achievements in fuel cell technology and future potentials this technology holds.



College of Engineering and Engineering Technology
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115-2854