Humboldt State University

Schatz Energy Research Center

Kettering University Four-Station PEM Fuel Cell Test Stand and Fuel Cells

A SERC engineer and Kettering professor look at the test station after installation.

The four-station test stand at Kettering University.

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. 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 train 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.

The fuel cell and gas storage cabinet of the fuel cell power system, with solar panels visible through the windo behind them.

The test stand after its 2011 upgrade.

The test stand consists of four test stations, which can all be operated simultaneously under the control of a single computer and data acquisition system. The test stand integrates air, hydrogen, and water delivery subsystems; an electrical power system including a programmable electronic load and uninterruptible power supply; monitoring and control hardware and software; and a safety control system to automatically shut the system down in the event of a malfunction or power outage.

Control System Upgrade

Over the next several years Kettering modified the test station to adapt to its changing research and teaching needs. In 2011, SERC was contracted to upgrade the software and install a new, custom-built control unit in Kettering’s test station, allowing it to continue to serve Kettering’s needs for many years to come.