Experimental investigation and mathematical modeling of triode PEM fuel cells


E. Martino, G. Koilias, M. Athanasiou, A. Katsaounis, Y. Dimakopoulos, J. Tsamopoulos, C.G. Vayenas


The triode operation of humidified PEM fuel cells has been investigated both with pure H2 and with CO poisoned H2 feed over commercial Vulcan supported Pt(30%)-Ru(15%) anodes. It was found that triode operation, which involves the use of a third, auxiliary, electrode, leads to up to 400% power output increase with the same CO poisoned H2 gas feed. At low current densities, the power increase is accompanied by an increase in overall thermodynamic efficiency. A mathematical model, based on Kirchhoff’s laws, has been developed which is in reasonably good agreement with the experimental results. In order to gain some additional insight into the mechanism of triode operation, the model has been also extended to describe the potential distribution inside the Nafion membrane via the numerical solution of the Nernst-Planck equation. Both model and experiment have shown the critical role of minimizing the auxiliary-anode or auxiliary-cathode resistance, and this has led to improved comb-shaped anode or cathode electrode geometries.


Nafion membrane, PEM fuel cell, Triode operation, CO poisoning, Nernst-Planck equation