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Charles W. Tobias Young Investigator Award Lecture

Past, Current, & Future Research in Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells

by Bryan S. Pivovar

Monday, October 8, 2012 | Honolulu, HI

Bryan S. PivovarPolymer electrolyte fuel cells are at a notable stage of development as they move beyond the potential for improved performance and efficiency into the realm of commercial viability in multiple applications. There have been several significant research advances that have played a key role in obtaining parity with competing technologies, typically batteries or internal combustion engines depending on the application. While this has allowed for the first commercial deployments, further research advances and evolution of the technology will allow for even broader application.

The past and current status of fuel cell research and development will be presented in broad terms with a focus on transportation applications, and specific areas of research contributions of the awardee will be highlighted within this context. In particular, specific scientific contributions in the areas of: alternate polymer electrolyte and membrane electrode assembly development; studies of electrodes and the catalyst/electrolyte interface; the development of alkaline membrane fuel cells; and novel, extended surface Pt electrocatalysts will be presented. Remaining challenges for polymer electrolyte fuel cells, including discussion of their competition, and a discussion of future research directions to address these challenges will also be included.

Bryan S. Pivovar is the Fuel Cell Group Manager and the acting Center Director for the Hydrogen Technologies and Systems Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO. He received his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2000. His thesis work focused on polymer electrolytes for direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) where he was the first to quantify performance of DMFC electrolytes in terms of selectivity and extensively studied electro-osmotic drag coefficients. He worked as part of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Fuel Cell team from 2000-2008 as a Post-doctoral Fellow, Staff Member, Fuel Cell Team Leader, and acting Program Manager.

At LANL, Dr. Pivovarís research focused on projects at the MEA level and included: electrode supports, impurities, fundamental science for cost and durability, freezing effects, direct methanol fuel cells, hydroxide conductors, non-Nafion MEAs, and high temperature membranes. During his time at LANL, he obtained the first DOE funded project on Alkaline Membrane Fuel Cells and has served a pioneering role in this area, organizing and chairing two DOE/DoD Workshops on the topic (2006, 2011). Since 2008, Dr. Pivovar has led NRELís fuel cell R&D efforts which include programs in advanced catalysis, system contaminants, and anion exchange membranes. His current role involves supervision and oversight of fuel cell R&D projects and staff (including students and post-docs). Dr. Pivovarís current research focus has a heavy emphasis in the area of novel extended surface electrocatalysts.

Dr. Pivovar is currently an Associate Research Professor of Chemistry at Colorado School of Mines, and has an appointment as a founding Fellow of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute with the University of Colorado-Boulder. He has mentored more than a dozen post-doctoral fellows, and co-advised and served on PhD committees for several graduate students. Dr. Pivovar has co-authored over 60 peer reviewed publications in the area of fuel cells, given numerous invited talks, chaired technical symposium at international conferences, and served on advisory committees. He has chaired a Workshop on Sub-Freezing Effects on Fuel Cells for the Department of Energy (2003) and the Gordon Research Conference - Fuel Cells (2007).

 

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