Sukkee Um


2 Optimization of Platinum Utilization by Using Stochastic Modeling of Carbon-Supported Platinum Catalyst Layer of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

Authors: Ali Akbar, Seungho Shin, Sukkee Um


The composition of catalyst layers (CLs) plays an important role in the overall performance and cost of the proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). Low platinum loading, high utilization, and more durable catalyst still remain as critical challenges for PEMFCs. In this study, a three-dimensional material network model is developed to visualize the nanostructure of carbon supported platinum Pt/C and Pt/VACNT catalysts in pursuance of maximizing the catalyst utilization. The quadruple-phase randomly generated CLs domain is formulated using quasi-random stochastic Monte Carlo-based method. This unique statistical approach of four-phase (i.e., pore, ionomer, carbon, and platinum) model is closely mimic of manufacturing process of CLs. Various CLs compositions are simulated to elucidate the effect of electrons, ions, and mass transport paths on the catalyst utilization factor. Based on simulation results, the effect of key factors such as porosity, ionomer contents and Pt weight percentage in Pt/C catalyst have been investigated at the represented elementary volume (REV) scale. The results show that the relationship between ionomer content and Pt utilization is in good agreement with existing experimental calculations. Furthermore, this model is implemented on the state-of-the-art Pt/VACNT CLs. The simulation results on Pt/VACNT based CLs show exceptionally high catalyst utilization as compared to Pt/C with different composition ratios. More importantly, this study reveals that the maximum catalyst utilization depends on the distance spacing between the carbon nanotubes for Pt/VACNT. The current simulation results are expected to be utilized in the optimization of nano-structural construction and composition of Pt/C and Pt/VACNT CLs.

Keywords: Stochastic Modeling, proton exchange membrane fuel cell, catalyst layer, platinum utilization

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1 Numerical Modeling and Prediction of Nanoscale Transport Phenomena in Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube Catalyst Layers by the Lattice Boltzmann Simulation

Authors: Ali Akbar, Seungho Shin, Keunwoo Choi, Sukkee Um


In this study, the nanoscale transport properties and catalyst utilization of vertically aligned carbon nanotube (VACNT) catalyst layers are computationally predicted by the three-dimensional lattice Boltzmann simulation based on the quasi-random nanostructural model in pursuance of fuel cell catalyst performance improvement. A series of catalyst layers are randomly generated with statistical significance at the 95% confidence level to reflect the heterogeneity of the catalyst layer nanostructures. The nanoscale gas transport phenomena inside the catalyst layers are simulated by the D3Q19 (i.e., three-dimensional, 19 velocities) lattice Boltzmann method, and the corresponding mass transport characteristics are mathematically modeled in terms of structural properties. Considering the nanoscale reactant transport phenomena, a transport-based effective catalyst utilization factor is defined and statistically analyzed to determine the structure-transport influence on catalyst utilization. The tortuosity of the reactant mass transport path of VACNT catalyst layers is directly calculated from the streaklines. Subsequently, the corresponding effective mass diffusion coefficient is statistically predicted by applying the pre-estimated tortuosity factors to the Knudsen diffusion coefficient in the VACNT catalyst layers. The statistical estimation results clearly indicate that the morphological structures of VACNT catalyst layers reduce the tortuosity of reactant mass transport path when compared to conventional catalyst layer and significantly improve consequential effective mass diffusion coefficient of VACNT catalyst layer. Furthermore, catalyst utilization of the VACNT catalyst layer is substantially improved by enhanced mass diffusion and electric current paths despite the relatively poor interconnections of the ion transport paths.

Keywords: lattice Boltzmann method, nano transport phenomena, polymer electrolyte fuel cells, vertically aligned carbon nanotube

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