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Influence of the contaminants of the hydrogen produced from ethanol dehydrogenation on the performance of proton or anion exchange membrane fuel cells

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Author(s):
Ana Laura Gonçalves Biancolli
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: São Carlos.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Instituto de Química de São Carlos
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Edson Antonio Ticianelli; Elisabete Inácio Santiago
Advisor: Edson Antonio Ticianelli
Abstract

The development of methods to produce clean hydrogen and alternative fuels for fuel cells has been a big challenge in the search of clean and renewable electric energy sources. Recently, a system was developed in our laboratory where ethanol was dehydrogenated in a reactor coupled to a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) and the hydrogen produced from this reaction was used as fuel. However, a loss of 40% in power density of the cell was observed at 0.7 V when compared to a cell fed with pure hydrogen. The reason for this loss of performance was not elucidated and this is a focus of the study involved in this work. Researches on the effect of contamination of PEM cells by various impurities, such as CO, methanol, formic acid, etc., have already been made, but so far, nothing has been found about the influence of the byproducts of the ethanol dehydrogenation reaction (ethyl acetate, acetaldehyde and unreacted ethanol) in fuel cells performances. Moreover, because of the absence of CO2, the hydrogen produced in such dehydrogenation reactor could have a great potential for applications in anion exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFC), making the characterization of the influence of these contaminants in the performance of such systems of high relevance. In this context, in this work a new research strand was developed, where hydrogen was contaminated by the by-products of the ethanol dehydrogenation and their influences on the performances of PEMFC and AEMFC were investigated. In the case of AEMFC, because of the lack of commercially available membranes and ionomers that lead to high power densities, it was necessary to synthesize these materials before the contamination studies. Through the analysis by different techniques, it was possible to clarify that unreacted ethanol is the main poison in the case of PEMFCs, with acetaldehyde and ethyl acetate having minor contributions. Different catalysts were tested in order to obtain better fuel cells performances and the best result was achieved when the Pt-Co/C catalyst was used at the cathode of the cell (with Pt/C at the anode), for which the loss of power density was only 20% compared to a cell fed by pure H2 and with Pt/C on both electrodes (working at 0.7 V). In the case of the AEMFC, new ionomers were obtained that combined with the synthesized membranes resulted in cells with a maximum power density above 1 W cm-2. However, due to the chemical instability, when exposed to contaminants, these materials appear to undergo degradation, leading to almost total and irreversible losses of the cell performance. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 15/09210-3 - Influence of the ethanol dehydrogenation by-products in the kinetics of hydrogen oxidation reaction in acid and alkaline electrolytes
Grantee:Ana Laura Gonçalves Biancolli
Support type: Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate (Direct)