Electrochemical Characterization of Low-Temperature Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells Using Direct and Alternate Current Methods

Here we report for the first time the results of systematic characterization of a low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane direct ethanol fuel cell using DC and AC electrochemical methods. Model catalysts (carbon supported Pt nanoparticles) painted on carbon paper are used as anode and cathode. Influence of physical parameters, such as cell temperature, current density, ethanol concentration and anode fuel flow rate on overall cell impedance is studied. Analysis of the obtained impedance spectra in connection with DC measurements allows us to comment on cell properties and to separate different contributions to the overall cell polarization. Our results suggest that the cell impedance is dominated by anode faradaic impedance, with negligible contribution from cathode faradaic impedance. The anode impedance depends strongly on current density and cell temperature, but is not significantly influenced by ethanol concentration. Presence of anode mass-transfer impedance, even when ethanol was fed to the cell in high excess, is confirmed. Based on the results we conclude that changes in ethanol electro-oxidation mechanism might manifest themselves on the impedance spectra in the low-frequency inductive loop. Nonetheless, further studies involving equivalent circuit modelling are needed to determine the exact influence of the cell parameters on the anode kinetics.