UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Process modeling of impedance characteristics of proton exchange membrane fuel cells Rezaei Niya, Seyed Mohammad


The impedance characteristics of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are studied and analyzed in this thesis. The modeling approaches presented in literature are thoroughly reviewed and categorized as the measurement-modeling and process-modeling approaches. In the former category, a hypothetical equivalent circuit which has the impedance characteristics similar to measured impedances is presented. Since the equivalent circuit is not directly resulted from the physical and chemical properties of the PEM fuel cells, the majority of the measurement-modeling approaches lead to dubious conclusions. In the process-modeling approach, on the other hand, the governing equations of the fuel cell must analytically be solved to determine and the impedance. However, a few process-modeling approaches presented in literature have shown to be indirectly based on the same assumptions as the measurement-modeling approach, and hence, those can also lead to similar conclusions. Therefore, these process-modeling approaches are referred to as the semi-process models here. In this thesis, the first complete process model for PEM fuel cells is presented which is not based on the above-mentioned assumptions. For each source of the losses in the fuel cell (i.e., the ohmic, activation and concentration overpotentials), a process model and equivalent circuit are obtained and compared against the impedance measurements reported in literature. The complete model (obtained by combining the models of the three losses) is then verified against the impedances measured in different operating conditions. Using the verified model, the measured Nyquist plots of the PEM fuel cells reported in literature are categorized. As a result, the dominant physical and chemical parameters controlling various arcs of the Nyquist plot are determined. Finally, the sensitivity analysis of the impedance characteristics of fuel cells is conducted using the verified model. As a result of this analysis, a minimum change in the operating conditions which results in statistically different Nyquist plots are determined. Finally, as an application of the model presented here, the impedance of the cell in the anode and cathode starvation modes are studied. It is shown that the anode starvation cannot be recognized from the impedance measurements, as predicted by the model.

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