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ECS Short Courses


Sunday, October 12, 2008 | Honolulu, Hawaii

Short Course #6
Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells
Stuart B. Adler and Hubert Gasteiger, Instructors

This short-course develops the fundamental thermodynamics and electrocatalytic processes critical to polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC). In the first part, we will discuss the relevant half-cell reactions, their thermodynamic driving forces, and their mathematical foundations in electrocatalysis theory (e.g., Butler-Volmer equations). Subsequently, this theoretical framework will be applied to catalyst characterization and the evaluation of kinetic parameters.

In the second part of the course, we will illuminate the different functional requirements of actual PEMFC components and present basic in-situ diagnostics (Pt surface area, shorting, H2 crossover, electronic resistance, etc.). This will be used to develop an in-depth understanding of the various voltage loss terms that constitute a polarization curve. Finally, we will apply this learning to describe the principles of fuel cell catalyst activity measurements, the impact of uncontrolled-operation events (e.g., cell reversal), and the various effects of long-term materials degradation.

To benefit most effectively from this course, registrants should have completed at least their first two years of a bachelor’s program in physics, chemistry, or engineering; or have several years of experience with PEMFCs.


About the Instructors

Stuart B. Adler received his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1993, where he used high-temperature NMR techniques to probe structure and atomic motion in electrochemical ceramics. His work in ionic materials continued at Imperial College (NATO-NSF fellow), where he developed new continuum theories for high temperature electrodes. In 1994, he moved to Ceramatec/Air Products, where he led research on ion-transport membranes and other oxygen separation processes. After rejoining academia in 1999 (CWRU), he moved to the University of Washington in 2002. His interests include advanced measurement and modeling techniques for solid-state electrode reactions, the kinetic, transport, and thermodynamic properties of electrode materials, and new educational initiatives in fuel cells. In 2004, Dr. Adler became the inaugural recipient of the ECS Charles W. Tobias Young Investigator Award.

Hubert Gasteiger received his BS in technical chemistry from the Fachhochschule Nürnberg (Germany) in 1986, his MS in chemical engineering from Oregon State University, and his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1993. He spent nine years in academic research on fundamental electrocatalysis and fuel cell related gas-phase catalysis, followed by seven years of industrial R&D in fuel cell development for automotive applications. Dr. Gasteiger was involved in the stack component design for GM/Opel’s H2-powered fuel cell vehicles, and since 1998 has been leading an R&D group in fuel cell stack materials development (membranes, catalysts, membrane electrode assemblies) at GM/Opel’s Fuel Cell Activities program in Honeoye Falls, New York. He co-authored 50 peer-reviewed publications and served as Co-Editor-In-Chief for Wiley’s Handbook of Fuel Cells – Fundamentals, Technology, and Applications (2003). In 2004, he received the Klaus-Jürgen Vetter Award for Electrochemical Kinetics from the International Society of Electrochemistry.

For additional information about Education, please contact: education


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