Quantifying and elucidating the effect of CO2 on the thermodynamics, kinetics and charge transport of AEMFCs†
It has been long-recognized that carbonation of anion exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFCs) would be an important practical barrier for their implementation in applications that use ambient air containing atmospheric CO2. Most literature discussion around AEMFC carbonation has hypothesized: (1) that the effect of carbonation is limited to an increase in the Ohmic resistance because carbonate has lower mobility than hydroxide; and/or (2) that the so-called “self-purging” mechanism could effectively decarbonate the cell and eliminate CO2-related voltage losses during operation at a reasonable operating current density (>1 A cm−2). However, this study definitively shows that neither of these assertions are correct. This work, the first experimental examination of its kind, studies the dynamics of cell carbonation and its effect on AEMFC performance over a wide range of operating currents (0.2–2.0 A cm−2), operating temperatures (60–80 °C) and CO2 concentrations in the reactant gases (5–3200 ppm). The resulting data provide for new fundamental relationships to be developed and for the root causes of increased polarization in the presence of CO2 to be quantitatively probed and deconvoluted into Ohmic, Nernstian and charge transfer components, with the Nernstian and charge transfer components controlling the cell behavior under conditions of practical interest.