Effect of CO in the reformatted fuel on the performance of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell

Document Type: Research Paper


Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Birjand, Birjand, Iran


There are several obstacles to the commercialization of PEM fuel cells.  One of the reasons is that the presence of carbon monoxide (CO) in the reformatted fuel, even at a very small scale, decreases the fuel cell performance. The aim of this paper is to investigate the effect of CO in reformatted fuel on PEM fuel cell performance. For this purpose, a steady state, one-dimensional and non-isothermal model is utilized to evaluate the PEM fuel cell performance with and without CO in the fuel stream. The governing equations which includes the conservation of mass, energy and species equations are solved in MATLAB software and validated by the available data in the literatures. The results indicate that when pure hydrogen is used as anode fuel the activation loss of the cathode is very large relative to the anode value; also, the maximum temperature occurs in the cathode catalyst layer. When reformatted fuel is applied as anode gas stream, activation loss and anode temperature increase by increasing the CO concentration in the reformatted fuel. As example, when CO concentration is over 50 ppm in the fuel stream, the activation loss and anode will be higher than the relevant amounts in cathode catalyst layer. Also it is observed that by increasing the fuel cell temperature and anode pressure, the CO effects on fuel cell performance are reduced.


Main Subjects


[1] Bernardi D. M., Verbrugge M. W., "A mathematical model of the solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell", Int. J. Electrochemical Society, 1992, 139: 2477.


[2] Baschuk J., Li X., "Carbon monoxide poisoning of proton exchange membrane fuel cells", Int. J. Energy Research, 2001, 25: 695.


[3] Chang X., Shi Z., Glass N., Zhang L., Zhang J., Song D., Liu Zhong-Sheng, Wang Haijiang, Shen Jun, "A review of PEM hydrogen fuel cell contamination: Impacts, mechanisms, and mitigation," Journal of Power Sources, 2007, 165: 739.


[4] Baschuk J., Li X., "Modelling CO poisoning and O2 bleeding in a PEM fuel cell anode", Int. J. Energy Research, 2003, 27: 1095.


[5] Bernardi D. M., Verbrugge M. W., "Mathematical model of a gas diffusion electrode bonded to a polymer electrolyte", Int. J. AIChE, 1991, 37: 1151.


[6] Springer T. E., Zawodzinski T., Gottesfeld S., "Polymer electrolyte fuel cell model", Int. J. Electrochemical Society, 1991, 138: 2334.


[7] Gloaguen F., R. Durand, “Simulations of PEFC cathodes: an effectiveness factor approach”, Int. J.  Applied Electrochemistry, 1997, 27: 1029.


[8] Baschuk J.,  Li X., “Modelling of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells with variable degrees of water flooding”, Int. J. Power Sources, 2000, 86: 181.


[9] Wohr M., Bolwin K., “dynamic modeling andsimulation polymer membrane fuel cell including mass transfer limitation”, Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 1998, 23: 213.


[10] Rowe A., Li X., “Mathematical modeling of proton exchange membrane fuel cells”, Int. J. Power Sources, 2001, 102: 82.


[11] Springer T., Zawodzinski T., Gottesfeld S., “Modeling of polymer electrolyte fuel cell performance with reformate feed streams: effects of low levels of CO in hydrogen”, Int. J. Electrode Materials and Processes for Energy Conversion and Storage IV, 1997, 15.


[12] Wohr M., Bolwin K., Schnurnberger W., Fischer M., Neubrand W., Eigenberger G., “Dynamic modelling and simulation of a polymer membrane fuel cell including mass transport limitation”, Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 1998, 23: 213.


[13] Springer T., Rockward T., Zawodzinski T., Gottesfeld S., “Model for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell Operation on Reformate Feed: Effects of CO, H2 Dilution, and High Fuel Utilization”, Int. J. Electrochemical Society, 2001, 148: 11.


[14] Baschuk J., Li X., “Mathematical model of a PEM fuel cell incorporating CO poisoning and O2 (air) bleeding,” Int. J. Global Energy Issues, 2003, 20: 245.