SERC Delivers Fuel Cell Test Station to Purdue University

In early December, Marc Marshall and I travelled to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to install and train staff in the use of SERC’s first combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell test station. CHP is also known as cogeneration. As reported in our Summer 2015 newsletter, the station was custom built for Professor Neera Jain in Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering.

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Left to right: Greg Chapman, Professor Neera Jain, graduate students Austin Nash and Rian Browne, and Marc Marshall pose with the newly installed test station.

The test station was designed so that Neera and her engineering students can study the electrical and thermal characteristics of this fuel cell cogeneration system in a simulated residential application. A Ballard fuel cell stack produces the electrical power while waste heat from the stack is transferred to a domestic hot water tank via the fuel cell cooling water system. Custom software allows the researchers to simulate the electrical and domestic hot water use typical of a single-family home. By measuring performance in various conditions, Neera and her students will be able to develop control algorithms to optimize system efficiency.

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Greg Chapman, project manager for the CHP fuel cell test station, poses with the newly installed test station.

Household fuel cell cogeneration systems have been field tested over the last few years and are making their way into the market, mainly in Japan and Germany. Panasonic launched its fourth generation fuel cell CHP model in 2015 and has installed over 10,000 units in Japan. Callux continues field-testing in Germany, and is targeting over 500 installed units by mid-2016. Both the Panasonic and Callux cogeneration systems convert natural gas to hydrogen in a reformer before supplying the fuel cell. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these high efficiency and reliable home energy systems as they enter the market.

SERC Builds a Custom Fuel Cell Test Stand for Kettering University

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SERC engineers Greg Chapman, Antonio Reis, and Marc Marshall (left to right), show off the newly installed Kettering University multistation fuel cell test stand. (Photo Credit SERC)

Since 1992 SERC has built and operated eight test stations for evaluating performance of its own proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. In 2002, the University of Michigan contracted with SERC to provide UM with a single-station fuel cell test stand. Following on the heels of this successful project, Kettering University approached SERC about building a multi-station test stand.

Dr. Etim Ubong and Dr. K. Joel Berry of Kettering’s mechanical engineering department made multiple visits to SERC to examine our test stations and to learn about our capabilities firsthand. The information exchanged during these visits helped Dr. Ubong and Dr. Berry identify exactly what features and specifications they required for their own test stand before placing their order with SERC. Kettering and SERC entered into a contract in August 2004. The test stand was designed, fabricated, and tested at SERC and then partially disassembled for shipment to Kettering University. SERC engineers traveled to Kettering to reassemble and activate the test stand and trained Kettering engineering faculty, technicians, and graduate students in operating and maintaining the system. SERC also provided Kettering with a comprehensive test stand operations and maintenance manual, as well as two built-to-order PEM fuel cell stacks for use with the test stand, one a 12-cell, 300 cm2 unit and the other a 4-cell 140 cm2 unit.

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