A comparison of low-pressure and supercharged operation of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell systems for aircraft applications

    • Progress in Aerospace Sciences - An International Review Journal, Volume 85, Pages 51-64
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    Author(s) - alphabetically sorted:

    Gores, F.; Griebenow, M.; Heitmann, S.; Preiß, G.; Werner, Claudia


    Multifunctional fuel cell systems are competitive solutions aboard future generations of civil aircraft concerning energy consumption, environmental issues, and safety reasons. The present study compares low-pressure and supercharged operation of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells with respect to performance and efficiency criteria. This is motivated by the challenge of pressure-dependent fuel cell operation aboard aircraft with cabin pressure varying with operating altitude. Experimental investigations of low-pressure fuel cell operation use model-based design of experiments and are complemented by numerical investigations concerning supercharged fuel cell operation. It is demonstrated that a low-pressure operation is feasible with the fuel cell device under test, but that its range of stable operation changes between both operating modes. Including an external compressor, it can be shown that the power demand for supercharging the fuel cell is about the same as the loss in power output of the fuel cell due to low-pressure operation. Furthermore, the supercharged fuel cell operation appears to be more sensitive with respect to variations in the considered independent operating parameters load requirement, cathode stoichiometric ratio, and cooling temperature. The results indicate that a pressure-dependent self-humidification control might be able to exploit the potential of low-pressure fuel cell operation for aircraft applications to the best advantage.