Faculty Advisor

Ravindra Datta


In recognition of the shortcomings inherent to the operating temperature ranges of current fuel cell systems, namely the“temperature gap" between 200C and 600C, an effort to develop an intermediate-temperature molten-salt electrolyte fuel cell (IT-MSFC) was undertaken. In this type of fuel cell, the molten salt electrolyte is supported on a porous support, in a planar or other geometry similar to that used in existing fuel cell technologies, such as phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) and molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC). Such a fuel cell using a molten hydroxide electrolyte and Pt/C catalyst was constructed and tested using hydrogen and oxygen as fuel. The performance was comparable to that which has been obtained from PEM fuel cells at the low end of the voltage range, reaching 950ma/cm2 at 0.4 V in the highest performing test. Performance was superior to PEM fuel cells at the high end of the voltage range, due to the more favorable kinetics at the higher temperatures, with an open circuit voltage (OCV) of 1.0 V with a linear performance curve between 1.0 V and 0.6 V, which is characteristic of fuel cells with low kinetic overpotentials. Longevity of the fuel cell was very poor, however a number of experiments were undertaken to improve it, enabling extension of operating life from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, which is still far too low for practical use. The key problem was identified as electrolyte retention by the support matrix and possible degradation of the gas diffusion layer and catalyst. Experiments were also conducted using methanol vapor as fuel, and it was found to provide performance close to that recorded with pure hydrogen. Experiments were also conducted using several alternative molten salts, including nitrate and chloride eutectics. Combinations of nitrates with hydroxides added to act as a charge carrier produced a working fuel cell, however performance was greatly reduced. Though preliminary, the work described herein demonstrates the great potential of IT-MSFC, and outlines the work needed to make this type of fuel cell practical.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





Molten Salt, Fuel Cell, Fuel cells, Fused salts