Design Strategy for Reducing Manufacturing and Assembly Complexity of Air-Breathing Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)


Conventional flat plate Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) designs have been under investigation for the last five decades with the majority of the research being conducted in fluid dynamics of the reactants, membrane chemistry, thermal characteristics, stacking, and electrical properties. By rigidly adhering to design characteristics and material choices (graphite flow plates and metal end plates), conventional fuel cell designs have become bulky, fastener intense designs that have a high degree of manufacturing and assembly complexity. The department of energy has recognized the need for economical and efficient manufacturing practices to further the market penetration and end user adoption of fuel cells. Therefore this paper analyzes air-breathing PEMFC's from the perspective of reducing manufacturing complexity, assembly complexity, and costs. Areas of complexity like the flow plates, end plates, sealing methods have been reassessed and this paper proposes alternatives to component functions, and the commonly employed materials along with an alternate assembly strategy. Prototypes built using the new design strategy achieved about 90% reduction in weight and number of components while enjoying an 80% reduction in costs. The new prototypes also possess a superior form factor, along with a 10-fold increase in power density as compared to conventional designs.


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Second Department

Materials Science and Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Cost Reduction; Design; Fuel Cells; Gas Fuel Purification; Manufacture; Department of Energy; Design Characteristics; Manufacturing Complexity; Manufacturing Practices; Novel Design; Number of Components; Power Densities; Thermal Characteristics; Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC); Assembly Ease; Fuel Cell Economics; Improved Power Density; Novel Design Strategy; Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells; Reduced Manufacturing Complexity; Solvent Welding

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2016 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2016