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ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT CRISES ARE FAST BECOMING THE BIGGEST problems around the world so, as a consequence, new renewable and clean energy power sources must be considered. One of the prevalent alternative sources of electric power is the fuel cell, discovered by Sir William Grove in 1839. One expects that fuel cell power generation systems will be used in a growing number of areas: in portable applications, in transportation applications, and in stationary power applications, for which fuel cell systems can provide both power and heat with cogeneration efficiencies as high as 80%. Numerous recent works have already highlighted the possibility of using the fuel cell in distributed power generation systems. The fuel cell utilizes the chemical energy of hydrogen (H2 ) and oxygen (O2 ) to generate electricity without pollution, as shown in Figure 1. The byproducts are simply pure water and heat. There are several types of fuel cells, which are characterized by the employed electrolyte. One of the most promising is the small, lightweight, and relatively easy to build polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), first used by NASA in the 1960s as part of the Gemini space program. A single cell voltage of the fuel cell is given by Gibb’s free energy ΔG and is equal to 1.23 V. This theoretical value is never reached even at no-load. For the rated current, the voltage of an elementary cell is about 0.6–0.7 V. Then a fuel cell is always an assembly of elementary cells that constitute a stack as shown in Figure 2.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2007.911814
IEEE power & energy magazine
Fuel Cell System
A fuel cell stack requires fuel, oxidant, and coolant in order to operate. The composition, pressure, and flow rate of each of O2 O2 these streams must be regulated. In addiH2 H2 tion, the gases must be humidified and the coolant temperature must be controlled. To achieve this, the fuel cell stack must be surrounded by a fuel system, fuel delivery system, air system, stack cooling system, and humidification system. Dilute Acid Dilute Acid Electrolyte Electrolyte Once operating, the output power generated by the fuel cells must be conditioned and absorbed by a load. Suitable Pt Electrodes Pt Electrodes alarms must shut down the process if The Electrolysis of Water The Electrolysis of Water unsafe operating conditions occur and a Is Reversible. cell voltage monitoring system must monitor fuel cell stack performance. These figure 1. Fuel cell principle discovered by Sir William Grove. functions are performed by electrical control systems. As an example, Figure 3 shows a simplified diagram of the PEM fuel cell system. When a fuel cell operates, its fuel (hydrogen and oxygen) flows are controlled by a “fuel cell controller,” which receives current demand. This current demand is the fuel cell current reference iFCREF (see Figure 3) coming from the energy management controller. The fuel flows must be adjusted to match the reactant delivery rate to the usage rate by the fuel cell controller.
Electron Flow Electron Flow A
Fuel Cell Dynamic Limitation
It is widely accepted that one of the main weak points of the fuel cell is its time constants dominated by temperature and fuel delivery system (pumps, valves, and in some cases, a hydrogen reformer). As a result, fast load demand will cause a high voltage drop in a short time, recognized as “fuel starvation phenomena.” For clarity, Figure 4 iFCREF (t ) presents the 0.5-kW PEM fuel cell voltage response to Fuel Cell Controller a current profile. The tests operate in two different ways: current step and current slope. It shows the drop of voltage curve in Figure 4(a), compared with Figure Air from Humidifier 4(b), which implies that Compressor fuel supply and delivered Pressure Controller electrical current do not coincide. Fuel flows (particExcess ularly the delay of air flow) have difficulties following the current step. This condition of operation is evidentand iFC are the fuel cell ly hazardous for the fuel cell stack.
figure 2. PEMFC stack (500 W, 40 A) composed of 23 cells of 100 cm2 developed by ZSW Company (Germany).
VFC (t )
Hydrogen from Bottle Flux Controller
PEMFC Stack 500 W, 23 Cells
iFC (t )
figure 3. Simplified diagram of the PEM fuel cell system. vFC voltage and current.
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Reliability and lifetime are the most essential considerations in such power sources. The hydrogen and oxygen starvations cause severe and permanent damage to the electro-catalyst of the fuel cell. The fuel starvation must be absolutely avoided even if the operation under fuel starvation is momentary just within one second. It is therefore recommended, when utilizing a fuel cell, to employ a power loop or a current loop in order to prevent overloads and fault conditions and to associate it with, at least, a fast auxiliary power source to improve the dynamic per-
formances of the whole system. Moreover, one can take advantage of this fast auxiliary power source to achieve an actual hybrid source in order to disassociate mean power sizing from peak transient power sizing; the aim being a reduction in volume and weight, and in the case of fuel cells used as main energy source, the possibility of regenerative braking.
Recent progress in supercapacitor technology has principally been applied in computer memory backup systems, but with the
Tek Stopped Single Seq
28 Oct 05 16:56:06
28 Oct 05 17:01:48 Ch1: FC Voltage
Ch1: FC Voltage [4 V/div] Fuel Starvation Phenomena 40 A 40 A Ch2: FC Current [10 A/div] Ch3: Hydrogen Flow [2 Liter/Min/Div] 4 A/s
1 2 3 4
Ch4: Air Flow [20 Liter/Min/Div]
Ch2: FC Current 1 2 3 5A Ch3: Hydrogen Flow Ch4: Air Flow Time: 4 s/Div (b)
Time: 1 s/Div (a)
figure 4. Fuel cell dynamic characteristics to (a) current step and (b) current slope: 4 A/s
Activated Carbon Electrode −Ions +Ions
εo εr A
εo the Permittivity of Free Space εr the Relative Permittivity of the Dielectric A the Plate Surface Area d the Plate Separation Load
Organic Electrolyte Power Supply
figure 5. Principle of operation of a supercapacitor.
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latest increases in capacitor energy storage levels, higher power applications [especially uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and hybrid vehicle] have become practicable. Electrochemical capacitors are presently called by a number of names: supercapacitor, ultracapacitor, or electrochemical double-layer capacitor. These terms are used interchangeably, and they refer to a capacitor that stores electrical energy in the interface that lies between solid electrodes and an electrolyte, as delineated in Figure 5. The double-layer capacitor phenomenon was discovered by Helmholtz, one of the greatest natural scientists, who
mathematically formulated the first main theorem of thermodynamics, in the 1800s. To maximize the capacitance C, the area A must be maximized and d minimized. Nowadays, the equivalent plate separation distance at the double layer consists of a few electrolyte molecule diameters of about 10−10 m. This plate separation distance is impossible in a conventional capacitor due to traditional dielectric breakdown, consisting of ionization followed by spark discharge. Terminal voltage of the supercapacitor is limited though, due to dissociation of the electrolyte. This limits the maximum voltage
SAFT Supercapacitor Module: Six Cells in Series
A SAFT Supercapacitor (3,500 F, 400 A, 2.5 V) SAFT SuperC Bank: 33 F, 270 V
figure 6. SAFT supercapacitor: a single cell, a module in six-series, and a bank in 108 cells in series.
Fuel Cell Converter
42 V dc Bus + vBus −
SuperC SuperC Bank i Converter SuperC − +
Power Conver ter
Control Signal Control Signal Energy Management Controller
figure 7. Concept of the actively controlled hybrid source for a distributed generation system. pLoad , pFC , and pSuperC are the load, fuel cell, and supercapacitor powers, respectively; vBus and vSuperC are the dc bus and supercapacitor voltages; iFC and iSuperC are the fuel cell and supercapacitor currents.
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(2.5–3 V) of a supercapacitor cell used in this experiment to peak power is usually for a 95% efficient discharge in which 2.5 V. Electrode area in the supercapacitor is maximized by only 5% of the energy from the device is dissipated as heat in use of activated carbon with an effective surface area up to the equivalent series resistance (ESR). For a corresponding 3,000 m2 /g of material. The large surface area combined with high-efficiency discharge, batteries would have a much lower the high capacitance per unit area yields the very large capac- power capability. itance seen in the supercapacitor. Additionally, the main disadvantage of the batteries is a The first high-power supercapacitors were developed by slow charging time, limited by a charging current [known as the Pinnacle Research Institute (PRI) for U.S. military applications such as laser weaponry and missile guidance systems. However, only in the 20th century did PLoad = PFC + PSuperC supercapacitors become well known in the context of hybrid electric vehicles promoted by the Department of Energy (DOE) under a supercapacitor development program. t5 The supercapacitors are true capacitors 0 t1 t2 t3 t4 t in that energy is stored via electrostatic charges on opposing surfaces, and they can withstand a very large number (thouMaximum Power sands to millions) of charge/discharge Average Power cycles without degradation. They are also similar to batteries in many respects, including the use of liquid electrolytes and 0 t Minimum Power the practice of configuring various size cells into arrays to meet the power, energy, and voltage requirements of a wide range of applications. Supercapacitors with ratings from a few 0 t farads to a thousand farads have been manufactured by Panasonic, Montena, Ness, ELNA, Maxwell Technologies, EPCOS, and SAFT, Inc. As an example, Figure 6 illustrates the photographs of the recent figure 8. Power profile of a hybrid power source. supercapacitor prototype by SAFT Company (France): ✔ a cell (3,500 F, 2.5 V, 400 A) ✔ a module (583 F, 15 V, 400 A) ✔ a bank (33 F, 270 V, 400 A). Fuel Cell These capacitors are not yet Converter available commercially; nonetheSAFT Supercapacitor Bank: 292 F less, prototype specifications have Control Panel been made available. Motor and
Supercapacitor Versus Battery
Only one-half the energy at the peak power from the battery is in the form of electrical energy to the load, and the other one-half is dissipated within the battery as heat in the equivalent series resistance. This is to say that the efficiency of batteries is around 50%. For supercapacitors, the
Fuel Cell Power
dSPACE Interfacing Card
figure 9. Hybrid system test bench.
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The fuel cell utilizes the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity without pollution.
the battery state-of-charge (SOC)]; in contrast, the supercapacitor may be charged in a short time depending on a high charging current (power) available from the main source. For example, a SAFT supercapacitor module (583 F, 15 V, 400 A) may be charged from zero voltage (zero-of-charge) to the maximum voltage (maximum-of-charge) within 22 s at a constant current of 400 A.
cell generator) to produce the compatibility and performance characteristics needed to be load-compatible. The supercapacitors will be used to improve the load-following characteristics of a power source by providing a more robust power response to changes in system loading. Figure 7 illustrates the functional block diagram of the hybrid control structure showing all of the major components, which include fuel cell source, fuel cell converter, supercapacitor storage device, supercapacitor converter, and energy management conTek Run Hi Res 1 Acqs 15 Sep 05 12:09:12 troller. The energy management controller operates to handle the energy balance (voltage 50 A conversion) between main source, auxiliary Ch2: iSuperCREF source, and load (as presented in Figure 8) by controlling both the main and auxiliary converters. The load is capable of providing regenerative braking that can be used to charge the auxiliary source. The system operates primarily on main source power and draws over- or under-energy Ch4: iSuperC from the supplementary source only for peak or transient energy requirements, such as vehicle 4 acceleration (a high load step). This structure is 0A called a series hybrid architecture that is commonly employed for all-electric hybrids. As the fuel cell is not current-reversible, a step-up (boost) converter is selected to adapt the Ch2↓ 10.0 A M 100 μs 500 kS/s 2.0 μs/pt Ch4 10.0 A Ω A Ch2 \ −9.6 Y low dc voltage delivered by the fuel cell to the 42 V dc bus (new standard voltage for automotive figure 10. Supercapacitor current response to a step 0 A to 50 A. system, “PowerNet”). Supercapacitors are conHow Fast Can Supercapacitor Energy nected to the 42-V dc bus by means of a two-quadrant dc/dc and Battery Energy Be Used? converter (bidirectional converter). Supercapacitor current, Supercapacitors fit between traditional capacitors and batteries which flows across the storage device, can be positive or in terms of time constant, specific energy, and specific power. negative, allowing energy to be transferred in both directions. Even though it is true that a battery has the largest specific To manage energy flows, one may then define three operenergy (meaning more energy is stored per weight than other ating modes (or states): technologies), it is important to consider the availability of 1) charge mode, in which the main source supplies energy that energy. For example, how fast can it be used? This is the to the auxiliary source and/or to the load (refer to Figtraditional advantage of capacitors. With a time constant of ure 8: t2 − t4 ), 2) discharge mode, in which both the main source and the less than 0.1 s, energy can be taken from a capacitor at a very auxiliary source supply energy to the load (refer to Fighigh rate. On the contrary, the same size battery will not be ure 8: t1 − t2 ), able to supply the necessary energy in the same time period. 3) recovery mode, in which the load supplies energy to the Concept of Fuel Cell/Supercapacitor storage device (regenerative braking) (refer to Figure 8: t4 − t5 ). Hybrid Power Source It is expected that the very fast power response and high speThe main objective of the control is to regulate the dc bus cific power of supercapacitors can be used to complement the voltage (energy balance in the dc bus). Taking into account slower power output of the main source (particularly the fuel the fuel cell dynamics, the fuel cell is only operating in nearly
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The fuel cell stack must be surrounded by a fuel system, fuel delivery system, air system, stack cooling system, and humidification system.
steady-state conditions, and the supercapacitors are functionThe energy management controller has been implemented ing during transient energy delivery or transient energy in the real-time card dSPACE DS1104, through the matherecovery with the following constraints: matical environment of Matlab-Simulink, with a sampling ✔ fuel cell current slope must be limited to a maximum frequency of 25 kHz. Moreover, ControlDesk software absolute value (for example: 4 A/s) in order to guarantee enables change to the parameters of the control. It is also matching the reactant delivery rate and the usage rate used for driving the load. ✔ fuel cell current must be kept within an interval (rated value, minimum value, or zero) 42 DC Bus ✔ supercapacitive storage 35 device voltage must be kept 28 within an interval (minimum 21 Fuel Cell value, maximum value). 14 7 Normally, the system 0 attempts to reach the nomi1.0 nal (operating) voltage, Load (Motor) Fuel Cell called full-of-charge. 0.5
Performance of Hybrid Power Sources
To examine the hybrid source performance, a small-scale test bench is realized in the laboratory, as depicted in Figure 9. The PEM fuel cell system (Figure 2 and Figure 3) was achieved by the ZSW Company. It is supplied using pure hydrogen from bottles under pressure and with clean and dry air from a compressor. The supercapacitive storage device (292 F) is obtained by means of twelve SAFT supercapacitors (capacitance: 3,500 F, rated voltage: 2.5 V, rated current: 400 A, low frequency equivalent series resistance: 0.8 m ) connected in series. Maximum supercapacitor voltage is then 30 V. One chooses the supercapacitor operating voltage of 25 V and minimum voltage of 15 V (classically 50% of the maximu voltage). Accordingly, the energy storage without losses (discharging from the operating voltage to the minimum voltage) is equal to 58.4 kJ.
0.0 −0.5 SuperC
Motor Speed [rpm]
−1.0 1,000 800 600 400 200 0 40 Fuel Cell
20 0 −20 −40 25.5 25.0 24.5 24.0 23.5 23.0 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Time [s] 70 80 90 100 SuperC
figure 11. Fuel cell/supercapacitor hybrid source response during drive cycle.
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SuperC Voltage [V]
It is widely accepted that one of the main weak points of the fuel cell is its time constants dominated by temperature and fuel delivery system.
High Dynamics of Supercapacitor Source
Figure 10 presents the transient response during supercapacitor discharging. The supercapacitor converter interfaces between the 42 V dc bus and the supercapacitor bank. The initial voltage of supercapacitor bank is 30 V. The supercapacitor current reference iSuperCREF is Ch2 and the measured current iSuperC is Ch4. One can observe the high dynamic response of the supercapacitor source from 0 to 50 A in 0.4 ms. Unquestionably, the fast response of supercapacitor power source can function with the fuel cell main generator to improve the slow dynamics of the whole system.
The experimental tests shown below were carried out by connecting the 42-V dc bus to an active load composed of a twoquadrant converter, loaded by a dc motor coupled with a dc generator. The motor functions with the cascade currentspeed control method. A hysteresis and P controller are selected for the motor current and speed loops, respectively, with a current limitation at ±60 A. The test, as illustrated in Figure 11, presents waveforms obtained at motor start to 1,000 rpm and stop. The motor starts at t = 10 s, to the final speed of 1,000 rpm, and the fuel cell power increases to its rated value of around 500 W. The peak load power is about 1 kW, which is two times the fuel cell rated power. Thus, the storage device, which supplies most of the power required during motor acceleration, remains in discharge state after motor start. In fact, the final supercapacitor current is 8 A because the steady-state load power (about 600 W) is greater than the fuel cell rated power (500 W). After that, the motor speed, at t = 40 s, decelerates from 1,000 rpm to stop; consequently, the storage device is deeply discharged, demonstrating three phases: first, during t = 40 s to 44 s, it recovers the power supplied to the dc bus by the fuel cell and the motor regenerative breaking (the peak power of about 0.5 kW); then it recovers the power supplied only by the fuel cell. From t = 44 s to 48 s, this power is constant, limited to the fuel cell rated power. After t = 48 s, the fuel cell power decreases due to the supercapacitor voltage regulation. During the two first phases, the fuel cell power is at a rated value of 500 W. In the third phase, it decreases down to zero. Excellently, only small perturbations on the dc bus voltage waveform can be seen, which is of major importance for the energy management controller.
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Finally, fuel cells are good energy sources to provide reliable power at steady state and supercapacitor energy storage devices can advance the load following characteristics of a fuel cell by providing a stronger power response to changes in system loading. During motor starts/stops or other considerable steps in load, the supercapacitors provide the balance of energy needed during the temporary load transition periods and also absorb excess energy from the generator source (motor braking). Adding supercapacitor energy storage to distributed power systems improves power quality and efficiency and reduces capital expenses by allowing the systems to be sized more closely to the steady-state power requirements rather than over-sizing the main generator to meet transient loading requirements.
For Further Reading
W. Friede, S. Raël, and B. Davat, “Mathematical model and characterization of the transient behavior of a PEM fuel cell,” IEEE Trans. Power Electron., vol. 19, no. 5, pp. 1234–1241, Sept. 2004. P. Thounthong, S. Raël, and B. Davat, “Test of a PEM fuel cell with low voltage static converter,” J. Power Sources, vol. 153, pp. 145–150, Jan. 2006. R.M. Nelms, D.R. Cahela, and B.J. Tatarchuk, “Modeling double-layer capacitor behavior using ladder circuits,” IEEE Trans. Aerosp. Electron. Syst., vol. 39, pp. 430–438, Apr. 2003. P. Thounthong, S. Raël, and B. Davat, “Utilizing fuel cell and supercapacitors for automotive hybrid electrical system,” in Proc. 2005 IEEE Applied Power Electronics Conf. (APEC), Mar. 2005, pp. 90–96. P. Thounthong, S. Raël, and B. Davat, “Control strategy of fuel cell/supercapacitors hybrid power sources for electric vehicle,” J. Power Sources, vol. 158, pp. 806–814, July 2006. J.W. Dixon and M. Ortúzar, “Ultracapacitors + DC-DC converters in regenerative braking system,” IEEE Aerosp. Electron. Syst. Mag., vol. 17, pp. 16–21, Aug. 2002.
Phatiphat Thounthong is a lecturer at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology North Bangkok, Thailand. Bernard Davat is a professor at the Institut National Polytechnique de Lorraine, Nancy, France. Stéphane Raël is an assistant professor at the Institut p&e National Polytechnique de Lorraine.