Advisor: Prof. Jay Benziger
Dissertation Title: Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells: Multiphase Transport and Electrocatalysis
Summary of Dissertation Topic:
Hydrogen fuel has enormous benefits due to its high specific energy (energy per unit mass) and as a zero emission replacement for conventional gasoline. Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) enable efficient conversion of hydrogen to electricity. One of the major limitations to wide-scale introduction of hydrogen powered devices is the power density of PEMFCs. My research addresses two strategies to increase the power density of fuel cells. The first investigates engineering issues associated with the electrode design including the gas diffusion layer (GDL) and bipolar plate. My research investigates the compromise these components make between transport processes and electrical conductivity. A second area of research is focused on understanding electrocatalyst design. I have synthesized iridium nanoparticles and followed that with deposition of a platinum monolayer. These nanoparticle systems have been evaluated for their electrocatalytic activity as a function of structure and surface chemistry. The goals of this work are to develop a method for synthesizing a core-shell structure with a monolayer platinum shell and to develop a fundamental understanding of electrocatalyst design.