A Comparison of Two Fuel Cell Air Compression Systems at Low Load 2001-01-2547
Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are considered to be one of the best alternative power sources for automobiles. For this application, high power and high power density are required. Pressurizing the fuel cell system gives both higher efficiency and higher power density, but that pressure costs a percentage of the fuel cell output power. The compressor used to elevate the pressure has a direct effect on the system efficiency and water balance characteristics, especially at low load. Compressors being developed for fuel cell applications are examined to determine their effect on a fuel cell system. Two compressor technologies are discussed; a positive displacement twin-screw compressor and a turbocompressor, and their effects at low loads and set minimum compressor flows are examined. The turbocompressor proves to be a superior machine in terms of efficiency, and therefore offers the most promising effect on system efficiency of the two compressors. The twin-screw compressor, on the other hand, offers more flexible pressure ratio and better water balance characteristics at low fuel cell loads, which is an important factor with PEM fuel cell systems. These results show the importance of determining the operating range of the system in the choice of a compressor for a fuel cell system.