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The 2010 Tobias Young Investigator Award Lecture

Diagnostics of Membrane Electrode Assemblies

by Thomas J. Schmidt

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Las Vegas, NV
1400h, Grande F (1st Floor)

Thomas SchmidtThe commercialization of hydrogen fuel cells is key for enabling a sustainable hydrogen-based economy. Low and high temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) are promising, and far-developed, technologies for automotive, stationary, and small portable applications. Although lots of component development and system field testing have been performed over the years, durability of stack and stack components, such as membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs), membranes, electrodes, gaskets, or bipolar plates is still a major concern.

One of the challenges in the development of membrane electrode assemblies is the impossibility to perform significant numbers of durability tests in the laboratory on a component basis for the required lifetimes, mainly due to time and test station constraints. It is impossible to test for several thousands of hours in order to find out if specific component advancements can last as long. That is, rapid or accelerated aging tests are necessary, which study specific degradation modes in short time periods, and being able to correlate these results with findings from realistic lifetime tests. For proper correlation between accelerating and realistic conditions, the degradation mode to be studied needs to be mechanistically well understood. This in turn is a prerequisite in order to design in situ and ex situ diagnostic methods, which are able to give insight into the related physical property of the membrane electrode assembly or its components. This contribution will discuss some diagnostic methods for MEAs and the MEA components with respect to their usefulness and limits.

Thomas J. Schmidt is R&D Director at BASF Fuel Cell GmbH in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. He received his University Diploma in chemistry from the University of Ulm/Germany in 1996 and his PhD in chemistry from the same university in 2000. That same year he joined the group of P. N. Ross at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellow. 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 Institute 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 been working 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. During these eight years with BASF Fuel Cell GmbH, Dr. Schmidt led the high-temperature MEA R&D activities and helped to successfully commercialize the BASF Fuel Cell CeltecŪ MEAs. In parallel since 2009, Dr. Schmidt has been working as lecturer for physical chemistry at Provadis School of International Management and Technology, University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt/Germany.

Dr. Schmidt has co-authored more than forty peer-reviewed journal articles and eleven peer-reviewed book chapters in the field of electrochemistry, including electrocatalysis and surface electrochemistry; synthesis and characterization of electrochemically active materials for electrochemical power sources, and general electrochemical materials science. He is also the inventor on 17 patent applications in the field of high-temperature PEFC technology. He recently served as co-editor of the book entitled Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell Durability. Since fall 2009, he has been serving also as co-instructor of the ECS Short Course PEM Fuel Cells being held again at the 2010 ECS fall meeting in Las Vegas. For this conference, Dr. Schmidt also acts as co-organizer of the Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells 10 Symposium.



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