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Understanding of Degradation Mechanisms to Improve Components and Design of PEFC

Periodic Report Summary - DECODE (Understanding of Degradation Mechanisms to Improve Components and Design of PEFC)

The aim of the DECODE project is to elucidate degradation mechanisms in PEFC with special focus on the influence of liquid water and in a second phase to modify components to achieve a significant improvement of PEFC durability. The focus of the project is the creation of new knowledge and understanding of the PEFC degradation processes, and in addition, the practical improvements of fuel cell performance and durability.

The project encompasses 11 partners with the necessary and important expertise to investigate and quantify degradation related phenomena in fuel cells and to derive strategies for improved durability. In particular, the project profits from the inputs of two car and truck manufacturers, component manufacturers, research institutes with their advanced testing infrastructure and universities with advanced modelling expertise. The project is structured into seven work packages for the investigation of various components of PEFC and in the field of organization and dissemination (involvement of all partners). The work packages are shortly described at the end of the summary. DECODE focuses both on detailed component characterisation and also subsystem (short stack) testing and analysis. The project aims at deriving the maximum information from all testing and analytical work but also follows a pragmatic approach. If specific component information can only be derived from a specific model configuration it is accepted within DECODE that the simplified arrangement is used. On the other hand, components are tested in long-term operation in short stacks under realistic and technical conditions thereby leading to naturally aged components. These will be analysed with all available analytical tools within the framework of the project. The components of PEFC investigated in the project consist in the electrodes, membranes, diffusion media and bipolar stacks. In-situ and ex-situ analysis is performed leading ideally to preliminary life time predictions at the end of the project. A special strength of the project is the large modelling activity which is expected to significantly advance knowledge and understanding of the processes leading to degradation and also to deliver the tools to describe ageing and performance degradation.

Progress of work since start of the project

At the start of the project it was of imminent importance to specify the requirements, materials and components as well as test procedures used and applied within DECODE. Also a definition of test cells and stacks for all activities was of paramount importance in order to ascertain a coherent activity and comparable results.

In the discussions, which are organised within WP2, it was decided to follow a pragmatic approach to enable the comparability of results but also to ascertain the rapid establishment of testing capability within DECODE. Therefore the specifications were performed specifically for each work package taking into accounts the different requirements and degradation mechanisms effective in the various components of PEFC. The work of this WP is now finalised and summarised in the deliverable reports "D2.1: Report which materials and components are selected, description of the test cell for standard test" and "D2.2: Report about test conditions for standard tests incl. operation modes".

The specifications started from input given by the automotive industry about operation conditions relevant for automotive applications. Based on these conditions, test conditions were defined for work package 3-5 for standard tests that should at the same time especially enhance the degradation of the component investigated in that WP (membrane, reaction layer, gas diffusion layer and cell) but also ensure a comparability of results between the different work packages. The test procedures for continuous operation and dynamic operation (load cycling) are based on the results of the FCTESQA project. Also the project test cells and stacks were defined.