24-642   Fuel Cell Systems

Location: Pittsburgh

Units: 12

Semester Offered: Fall

Fuel cells are devices that convert chemical potential energy directly into electrical energy. Existing fuel cell applications range from the small scale, such as portable cell phone chargers, to the large scale, such as MW-scale power plants. Depending on the application, fuel cell systems offer unique advantages and disadvantages compared with competing technologies. For vehicle applications, they offer efficiency and environmental advantages compared with traditional combustion engines. In the first half of the course, the focus is on understanding the thermodynamics and electrochemistry of the various types of fuel cells, such as calculating the open circuit voltage and the sources of voltage loss due to irreversible processes for the main fuel cells types: PEM/SOFC/MCFC. The design and operation of several real fuel cells are then compared against this theoretical background. The second half of the course focuses on the balance-of-plant requirements of fuel cell systems, such as heat exchangers, pumps, fuel processors, compressors, as well as focusing on capital cost estimating. Applying the material learned from the first and second halves of the class into a final project, students will complete an energy & economic analysis of a fuel cell system of their choice.