Catalyst Degradation in PEM Fuel Cells - Modeling Aspects

G. Vaivars, P. Ndungu, and V. Linkov
South African Institute of Advanced Material Chemistry, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

In a fuel cell-powered engine, the fuel is converted to electrical energy through electrochemical reactions instead of combustion. Long term stability is required for automobile and other energy system applications.

The agglomeration of catalyst particles leads to an irreversible decrease of the electrochemical performance, and there are no viable methods to compensate for this phenomenon.

Complex approaches combining aspects of device physics and nanotechnology will allow better understanding of the agglomeration mechanism and help in the development of procedures leading to the solutions that will overcome these problems.

COMSOL, a multiphysics modeling software, was found to be a suitable tool for addressing these complex problems associated with nano-particle agglomeration, and the agglomeration was attributed to the fact that the catalyst particles are exposed to a high electric field gradient.