Experimental determination of optimal clamping torque for AB-PEM fuel cell

Ul Hassan N., Kilic M., Okumus E., Tunaboylu B. , Soydan A. M.

JOURNAL OF ELECTROCHEMICAL SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, vol.6, no.1, pp.9-16, 2016 (Journal Indexed in ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 6 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.5599/jese.198
  • Page Numbers: pp.9-16
  • Keywords: Air breathing PEM fuel cell, Stack clamping torque, Compaction pressure, Contact resistance, Optimal cell performance, ELECTRICAL CONTACT RESISTANCE, GAS-DIFFUSION LAYERS, PRESSURE DISTRIBUTION, PERFORMANCE, COMPRESSION


Polymer electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell is an electrochemical device producing electricity by the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen without combustion. PEM fuel cell stack is provided with an appropriate clamping torque to prevent leakage of reactant gases and to minimize the contact resistance between gas diffusion media (GDL) and bipolar plates. GDL porous structure and gas permeability is directly affected by the compaction pressure which, consequently, drastically change the fuel cell performance. Various efforts were made to determine the optimal compaction pressure and pressure distributions through simulations and experimentation. Lower compaction pressure results in increase of contact resistance and also chances of leakage. On the other hand, higher compaction pressure decreases the contact resistance but also narrows down the diffusion path for mass transfer from gas channels to the catalyst layers, consequently, lowering cell performance. The optimal cell performance is related to the gasket thickness and compression pressure on GDL. Every stack has a unique assembly pressure due to differences in fuel cell components material and stack design. Therefore, there is still need to determine the optimal torque value for getting the optimal cell performance. This study has been carried out in continuation of development of Air breathing PEM fuel cell for small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) application. Compaction pressure at minimum contact resistance was determined and clamping torque value was calculated accordingly. Single cell performance tests were performed at five different clamping torque values i.e 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and 2.5 N m, for achieving optimal cell performance. Clamping pressure distribution tests were also performed at these torque values to verify uniform pressure distribution at optimal torque value. Experimental and theoretical results were compared for making inferences about optimal cell performance. A clamping torque value of 1.5 N m was determined experimentally to be the best for getting optimal performance as well as uniform pressure distribution for this specific fuel cell.