As the world transitions toward a more sustainable energy future, it becomes clear that fuel cells will play a role in the global sustainable energy infrastructure. Of the many types of fuel cells, high temperature proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells operating in the range of 120-200oC are particularly interesting as they offer several advantages over low temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Most notably high temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cells exhibit increased tolerance to fuel impurities and simplified water management system requirements. These advantages are offset by a significantly shortened operational lifespan which makes high temperature proton exchange membrane cells suitable for small rugged applications including unmanned aerial vehicles, emergency backup power systems, and portable power production. The focus of this research is to extend the lifespan of high temperature membrane electrode assemblies (MEA’s) through a fundamental understanding of what the degradation modes are, what common process parameters best suit high temperature operation, and an understanding of the role of water in cell operation. The research is focused on operation at the higher reaches of the high temperature PEM range at 200oC. Initially the gap in previous literature will be identified and addressed as the exact degradation rate at our ideal operating conditions is not well understood with commercially available MEAs. Postmortem and in situ analysis of MEAs was undertaken to better understand the modes of degradation. This was followed with testing into the effective role of water on cell function and with innovative MEA design to promote cell longevity. To explore the impact of utilizing reformate fuels, a techno-economic analysis was undertaken comparing solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) to high temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cells (HT-PEM) for use with a pyrolysis process.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells--Thermal properties; Proton exchange membrane fuel cells--Reliability

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Thomas Trabold

Advisor/Committee Member

Nenad Nenadic

Advisor/Committee Member

Thomas W. Smith


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes