Fuel Cells—Perspective from the Electrical Terminals

Steven Shaw, Montana State University

Friday, February 29, 2008

Spanos Auditorium

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This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

Fuel cells have attracted tremendous public interest because of their potential to convert chemical energy to electrical energy with great efficiency. Fuel cells have clean emissions and integrate naturally with capture technologies such as carbon sequestration. The heat from high-temperature fuel cells can be used for a variety of secondary purposes, including fuel reformation, combined cycle operation with turbines and conventional generators, and building heat. The increasing interest in energy security has intensified efforts to build fuel cell systems that exploit a variety of fuels ranging from renewable bio-fuels to coal. A direct consequence of the positive attributes of fuel cells is that the materials requirements for building practical power sources are extremely demanding. Much of the research effort targeted at making fuel cells practical has evolved in the materials science community, essentially ignoring dynamic interactions with electrical loads, control, and diagnostics at the electrical terminals. This talk will focus on emerging opportunities at the fuel cell terminals, including results from fuel cell / load interaction monitoring at a 0.5 MW test installation in Montana, real-time fuel cell control, and electrically induced degradation results in proton exchange membrane and solid oxide cells. Integration of system identification with hybridization and the potential to mitigate materials degradation through control at the electrical terminals will be presented. The talk will conclude with electrical terminal and controls considerations that are shaping the design of a solid oxide fuel cell propulsion system scheduled for flight test within the year.

About the Speaker

Dr. Steven R. Shaw received a bachelors in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995. He subsequently earned the M. Eng. ('97), EE ('00) and Ph.D. ('00) degrees in electrical engineering, also from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a brief post-doctoral appointment at M.I.T., he joined the faculty of the electrical and computer engineering department at Montana State University, where he is now an associate professor. Dr. Shaw is broadly interested in applications of electronics and control at the boundaries of traditional disciplines. His funded research program emphasizes energy, with current projects in fuel cell control, fuel cell degradation, high power density fuel cell systems for flight propulsion, and micro-optical mirror control for imaging tissues. Dr. Shaw is a member of the technology review TR-100 class of 2002 and a 2003 National Academy of Engineering "Frontiers of Engineering" honoree. He holds an NSF CAREER award and is co-author of a 2007 IEEE prize paper.