Schatz Energy Research Center

SERC Builds a Custom Fuel Cell Test Stand for Kettering University

SERC engineers Greg Chapman, Antonio Reis, and Marc Marshall (left to right), show off the newly installed Kettering University multistation fuel cell test stand. (Photo Credit SERC)

Since 1992 SERC has built and operated eight test stations for evaluating performance of its own proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. In 2002, the University of Michigan contracted with SERC to provide UM with a single-station fuel cell test stand. Following on the heels of this successful project, Kettering University approached SERC about building a multi-station test stand.

Dr. Etim Ubong and Dr. K. Joel Berry of Kettering’s mechanical engineering department made multiple visits to SERC to examine our test stations and to learn about our capabilities firsthand. The information exchanged during these visits helped Dr. Ubong and Dr. Berry identify exactly what features and specifications they required for their own test stand before placing their order with SERC. Kettering and SERC entered into a contract in August 2004. The test stand was designed, fabricated, and tested at SERC and then partially disassembled for shipment to Kettering University. SERC engineers traveled to Kettering to reassemble and activate the test stand and trained Kettering engineering faculty, technicians, and graduate students in operating and maintaining the system. SERC also provided Kettering with a comprehensive test stand operations and maintenance manual, as well as two built-to-order PEM fuel cell stacks for use with the test stand, one a 12-cell, 300 cm2 unit and the other a 4-cell 140 cm2 unit.

The test stand consists of four test stations, which can all be operated simultaneously under the control of a single computer and data acquisition system. The test stand integrates air, hydrogen, and water delivery subsystems; an electrical power system including a programmable electronic load and uninterruptible power supply; monitoring and control hardware and software; and a safety control system to automatically shut the system down in the event of a malfunction or power outage.

SERC’s test stand makes up part of Kettering University’s new Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration. The Center debuted with an open house in June 2005. The SERC test stand was one of the Center’s major attractions as they showcased their fuel cell capabilities to the media, the public, dignitaries from Congress, the Governor of the State of Michigan, and the new facility’s numerous corporate sponsors.

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