Our research team consists of undergraduate Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering seniors and will be working on the study of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction involving an oxidizing agent such as oxygen.
The PEM fuel cell generates electricity by electrochemical reactions in the anode as well as the cathode. In order to speed up the chemical reactions, PEM fuel cells utilize a catalyst. The best catalyst researched to date is platinum. When the protons reach the cathode, they react with the oxygen and electrons to produce water, which is the only waste product produced by the fuel cell. Meanwhile, the electrons generated in the anode travel in an external circuit, creating the electrical output of the fuel cell. There are no harmful emissions as there is no combustion of the fuels.