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ECS Short Courses & Tutorials

Boston, MA, USA | Sunday, October 9, 2011

Short Course #5
Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells
Hubert Gasteiger and Thomas Schmidt, Instructors

Please visit the Boston meeting page for registration information. Early-Bird Registration rates are in effect until September 9, 2011. See a list of all Short courses offered at the Boston meeting.

This short-course develops the fundamental thermodynamics and electrocatalytic processes critical to polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs including direct methanol and alkaline membrane FCs). 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 like activation energies, exchange current densities, reaction orders, etc.

In the second part of the course, we will illuminate the different functional requirements of actual PEFC (incl. DMFC and AMFC) 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 PEFCs.


About the Instructors

Hubert Gasteiger received his MS in chemical engineering from Oregon State University in 1988, 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 nine years of industrial R&D in fuel cell development for automotive applications. He was involved in the stack component design for GM/Opel’s H2-powered fuel cell vehicles, and led 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 (NY, USA). After spending a year as visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the group of Yang Shao-Horn, he became full professor at the Technische Universität München in the spring of 2010, chairing the Institute of Technical Electrochemistry.

He co-authored 70 peer-reviewed publications, 13 book chapters, and 29 patents/patent applications. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for Wiley’s Handbook of Fuel Cells – Fundamentals, Technology, and Applications (2003 & 2009) and currently leads the ECS Fuel Cell Subcommittee. In 2004, he received the Klaus-Jürgen Vetter Award for Electrochemical Kinetics from the International Society of Electrochemistry.

Thomas J. Schmidt received his University Diploma (1996) and his PhD (2000) in chemistry from the University of Ulm (Germany), before he joined the group of P. N. Ross and N. Markovic at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. During this period, he intensively studied the fundamentals of electrocatalysis of fuel cell reactions. He continued to work with G. G. Scherer at Paul Scherrer Institut in Villigen/Switzerland on the development of membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) using radiation-grafted membranes and on oxygen electrocatalysis with oxide containing catalysts. Since fall 2002, he has beenworking in the industrial development of high temperature membrane electrode assemblies and its components (membranes, catalysts, electrodes) using polybenzimidazole based membranes at BASF Fuel Cell GmbH (formerly Pemeas GmbH). During these eight years in industries, Dr. Schmidt led the high-temperature MEA R&D activities as Director R&D and helped to successfully commercialize the BASF Fuel Cell Celtec® MEAs. In parallel in 2009 and 2010, he was working as lecturer for Physical Chemistry at Provadis School of International Management and Technology, University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt/Germany.

In February 2011, Dr. Schmidt became full professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and head of the Electrochemical Energy Conversion Section in the Electrochemistry Laboratory at Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen.

Dr. Schmidt has co-authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications, eleven peer-reviewed book chapters, and he is the inventor on 20 patent applications. He recently served as co-editor of the book entitled Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell Durability (Springer). Dr. Schmidt is the 2010 recipient of the ECS Charles W. Tobias Young Investigator Award.

For additional information about Education, please contact: education


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