Gas Analysis in Fuel Cell Technology

Background

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Fuel cells such as the Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell (PEFC) used in vehicles and hydrogen technology form the cornerstone of a potentially sustainable energy system for the future. Current research on fuel cell development is focused around a range of problems aiming at efficiency enhancement, reliability and cost reduction. An important problem that needs to be solved is contamination and “poisoning” of the fuel cell either by the fuel gas (from outside) or by materials used to construct the cell itself. In addition methods for gathering comprehensive data are needed for analysis and optimization of both the overall process of energy production as well as the level of emissions.

Solution

The V&F CombiSense dual mass spectrometer offers the flexibility to analyze and quickly identify highly variable gas compositions within the entire process flow of fuel cells. As an integral part it features the patented Ion Molecule Reaction technology (IMR) for trace analysis of gases at ppm or ppb levels. Furthermore, gases present in volume percent can be measured using a built-in electron impact source (EI). Hence, the V&F CombiSense allows for efficiency studies by determining H2, O2 and H2O at the same time as the functionality of the fuel cell is monitored via determination of CO, CO2 and other tracers for malfunction and aging such as organic sulfur and nitrogen compounds. Moreover, the CombiSense is well suited for the development and monitoring of H2 reformer technologies to generate hydrogen from different fuels for example methane. V&F mass spectrometers can be equipped with a variety of interfaces to ensure proper embedding into automation systems e.g. via communication by AK-protocol.

Advantage

To some measurement techniques the matrix effects in fuel cell gas analysis pose insurmountable problems. These effects are caused by the high water content and high concentrations of H2 commonly present in either fuel gas or exhaust gas and may inhibit gas transport, switching valves and seals. V&F mass spectrometers are capable of suppressing these effects by use of a high vacuum and a background correction function. By offering enormous flexibility with respect to the molecules to be determined and their concentrations the V&F CombiSense fuel cell analyzer provides a one-stop solution for continuous monitoring of fuel cell feed gases, identification of potential impurities and early detection of failures, thus allowing corrective steps to be taken immediately. As such, it is an ideal tool for the research and production of fuel cell technology.

Highlights

  • Monitoring of the complete process flow of fuel cells
  • Overview of the entire gas composition in gas supply and exhaust gas
  • High sensitivity and high selectivity

Reference customers (excerpt)

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Applicable instruments

HSense
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EiSense
AirSense
CombiSense