MS Thesis Presentation by Daniel G. Hays
Thursday, May 19, 2005

(Dr. Sheldon Jeter, Co-Chair, Dr. Said Abdel-Khalik, Co-Chair)

"Testing of an Axial Flow Moisture Separator in a Turbocharger System for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells"


Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, with low operating temperatures and high power density, are a reasonable candidate for use in mobile power generation. One large drawback to their use is that their fuel reformer requires not only fuel but also water, thereby requiring two separate reservoirs to be available. PEM fuel cells exhaust enough water in their oxidant stream to potentially meet the needs of the fuel reformer. If this water could be recovered and routed to the fuel reformer it would markedly increase the portability of PEM fuel cells.


The goal of this research was to test a previously designed axial flow moisture separator. The separator was employed in a test bed which utilized compressed, heated air mixed with steam to simulate the oxidant exhaust conditions of a 25 kW PEM fuel cell. The simulated exhaust was saturated with water. The mixture was expanded through the turbine side of an automotive turbocharger, which dropped the temperature and pressure of the mixture, causing water to condense, making it available for separation. The humid air mixture was passed over an axial flow centrifugal separator and water was removed from the flow.

The separator was tested in a variety of conditions with and without passing chilled water through the separator. The axial separator was tested independently, with a flow straightener preceding it, and with a commercially available centrifugal moisture separator in series following it. It was shown that cooling makes a significant impact on the separation rate while adding a flow straightener does not. Separation efficiencies of 19% on average were experienced without cooling, while efficiencies of 50% were experienced with 3.1 kW of cooling. The separation efficiency of the two moisture separators combined was found to be 31.7% which is 165% that of the axial separator alone under uncooled conditions.