Faculty Advisor

Ravindra Datta,




Fuel cells are one of the most promising clean energy technologies under development. But a constraining factor in their further development is related to operating temperature ranges of current fuel cell systems, which is either low or high temperature. The intermediate temperature (200¡ÃƒÂ£C to 600¡ÃƒÂ£ C) would be the most desirable temperature range for a fuel cell for most applications, but there is no existing mature fuel cell technology in this range, mainly because of an absence of appropriate electrolytes. An effort to develop an intermediate-temperature molten-salt electrolyte fuel cell (IT-MSFC) was undertaken in this study. As a start, molten KOH was used as an electrolyte around 200¡ÃƒÂ£ C supported on a porous matrix. Tests used Pt loaded carbon cloth to be the electrode-catalyst layer, hydrogen and oxygen as fuel. The major challenge for this fuel cell was to hold electrolyte within a suitable porous support layer, without crossover of fuel gas during operation. Performance was short-lived, thus several ceramic materials were investigated in this research, including Zirconia felt, Zirconia disk, and porous NiO. To evaluate the properties of KOH molten salts working for IT-MSFCs, the performances were compared to fuel cell tests with KOH saturated solution and phosphoric acid with the same electrolyte support. KOH molten salt has large potential to work as electrolyte, with an open circuit voltage (OCV) of 1.0 V, and had linear performance curve between 1.0 V and 0.6 V, which is characteristic of fuel cells with low kinetic overpotentials. The highest performance was got by using porous NiO support in certain porosity range. Longevity of the fuel cell was a little better than the former, but still far from practical application. The result suggested that the capillarity, permeability and compatibility of support material are essential for performance of this type of fuel cell. Besides the problem of electrolyte II retention by the support matrix, unsuitable water management, degradation of the gas diffusion layer and catalyst may also reduce the fuel cell performance. Although this work is at a preliminary stage, it has demonstrated the immense potential of IT-MSFC, and a great deal of additional work will be required to produce a practical fuel cell.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Intermediate temperature, Molten salt