MSE Seminar: Importance of Materials Porosity in Fuel Cell Performance at High Power/use in UAVs

Friday, September 20, 2019
1:00 p.m.
2108 Chem/Nuc Engineering Building
John Cumings

Speaker: Karen Swider-Lyons, Ph.D., Head of Alternative Energy Section in Chemistry Division, and Director of Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Title: The Importance of Materials Porosity in Fuel Cell Performance at High Power and Use of Hydrogen Fuel Cells in Unmanned Air Vehicles


Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity directly from the electrochemical conversion of hydrogen and the oxygen and air to water. The appeal of hydrogen fuel cells is that they can offer longer endurance than batteries, because of the combination of the high efficiency electrochemical reactions with the high energy of hydrogen. They are now used commercially as the power source for forklifts and engines in the next generation of electric automobiles and trucks. 

Efficient electrocatalysis is often associated with a high performance fuel cell, but operation at high power is more based on the management of the product water of the electrochemical reaction must be ejected effectively from the fuel cell to allow for the ingress of new reactants. Dr. Swider-Lyons' talk will show how high power is affected by materials porosity in the fuel cell electrodes.

She will also talk about how high specific power and efficiency in hydrogen fuel cells is important to the next generation of unmanned air vehicles.


Dr. Swider-Lyons is the head of the Alternative Energy Section in the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and has recently taken a joint appointment as the Director of NRL’s Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR). Her career has been focused on energy materials for batteries and fuel cells and how to integrate them into autonomous systems. She works with a diverse team of researchers and engineers to understand the impact of science on real world applications.

Dr. Swider-Lyons has published more than 87 papers in refereed journals and 16 patents, and now leads the Electrochemical Society committee for polymer electrolyte fuel cells and electrolyzers. She earned her Ph.D. in 1992 in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Haverford College (1987). 

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