Modelling and simulation of a direct ethanol fuel cell considering multistep electrochemical reactions, transport processes and mixed potentials
In this work a one-dimensional mathematical model of a direct ethanol fuel cell (DEFC) is presented. The electrochemical oxidation of ethanol in the catalyst layers is described by several reaction steps leading to surface coverage with adsorbed intermediates (CH3CO, CO, CH3 and OH) and to the final products acetaldehyde, acetic acid and CO2. A bifunctional reaction mechanism is assumed for the activation of water on a binary catalyst favouring the further oxidation of adsorbates blocking active catalyst sites. The chemical reactions are highly coupled with the charge and reactant transport. The model accounts for crossover of the reactants through the membrane leading to the phenomenon of cathode and anode mixed potentials due to the parasitic oxidation and reduction of ethanol and oxygen, respectively. Polarisation curves of a DEFC were recorded for various ethanol feed concentrations and were used as reference data for the simulation. Based on one set of model parame ters the characteristic of electronic and protonic potential, the relative surface coverage and the parasitic current densities in the catalyst layers were studied.