In-situ measurement of ethanol tolerance in an operating fuel cell

Matt S. Naughton, Claire E. Tornow, Yolanda Bonita, Huei Ru Molly Jhong, Fikile R. Brushett, Andrew A. Gewirth, Paul J.A. Kenis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethanol is seen as an attractive option as a fuel for direct ethanol fuel cells and as a source for on-demand production of hydrogen in portable applications. While the effect of ethanol on in-situ electrode behavior has been studied previously, these efforts have mostly been limited to qualitative analysis. In alkaline fuel cells, several cathode catalysts, including Pt, Cu triazole, and Ag can be used. Here, we apply a methodology using a microfluidic fuel cell to analyze in-situ the performance of these cathodes as well as Pt anodes in the presence of ethanol and acetic acid, a common side product from ethanol oxidation. For a given concentration of ethanol (or acetic acid), the best cathode catalyst can be determined and the kinetic losses due to the presence of ethanol (or acetic acid) can be quantified. These experiments also yield information about power density losses from the presence of contaminants such as ethanol or acetic acid in an alkaline fuel cell. The methodology demonstrated in these experiments will enable in-situ screening of new cathodes with respect to contaminant tolerance and determining optimal operational conditions for alkaline ethanol fuel cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8980-8991
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number21
StatePublished - Jul 17 2013


  • Ag cathode
  • Alkaline fuel cell
  • Electrode characterization
  • Gas diffusion electrodes
  • Non-Platinum catalyst
  • Reference electrode

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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