Humboldt State University

Schatz Energy Research Center

Fuel Cell Test Station and Fuel Cells for the University of Michigan

SERC and University of Michigan engineers pose in front of the completed test station.

University of Michigan and Schatz Energy Research Center engineers show off the newly installed test station.

Many universities now offer fuel cell courses as part of their engineering curriculum. However, few campuses are equipped to operate and test fuel cell stacks. In August 2002, the Schatz Energy Research Center provided a built-to-order fuel cell test station for the laboratory of Professors Anna Stefanopoulou and Huei Peng of the University of Michigan’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. SERC also provided the university with a 1.25 kW 24-cell PEM stack for use on the test station.

SERC engineers designed, built, and tested the system at their laboratory, then disassembled it and shipped it to Ann Arbor. There the SERC staff reassembled the system and trained UM researchers in test station operation and maintenance.

The test station enabled UM researchers to integrate instrumentation and equipment for the development of control and diagnostic systems for vehicular fuel cell power. The system can be used with stacks of up to 30 cells and outputs as high as 4 kW. The test station computer uses a LabVIEW operator interface to monitor and control the fuel cell via 5B signal conditioning modules connected to DAQ boards. Other test station features include a 4 kW electronic load, an uninterruptible power supply for continuous long-term testing, and hardware- and software-based safety alarms and shutdowns. A circulating water system provides stack heating, cooling, and humidification as needed.

SERC had built several test stations for in-house fuel cell testing, but this project was our first venture in building a test station for an outside client. UM’s engineers were pleased with the results. “I am really impressed by the quality of the test station,” noted Prof. Peng. “In Greece we use the word ‘meraki’ to describe such good craftsmanship,” added Prof. Stefanopoulou.

In spring of 2005, SERC designed, produced, delivered, and installed an 8 cell, 300 cm2 fuel cell stack (without an internal humidification section) and external humidification system. The stack is identical in design and hardware to the existing SERC fuel cell stack already owned by the University of Michigan with three exceptions: 1) the stack has 8 cells, 2) the internal humidification section was omitted, and 3) additional ports were provided to permit access to the stack internal manifolds.