Enhanced Water Management with Electroosmotic Pumps for PEM Fuel Cells

S. Litster, C.R. Buie, T. Fabian, J.K. Eaton and J.G. Santiago
Stanford University, US


PEM fuel cell, flooding, water management, electroosmotic pump


Proper water management is critical for high performance with polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Without adequate hydration, losses due to the electrolyte resistance become excessive. Humidification of reactant gases ensures proper humidification of the membrane. Consequently, much of the water produced is in liquid form and flooding limits power density. Flooding is commonly addressed by removing water with excessive reactant flow rates and elevated gas pressures. This solution makes air delivery the largest parasitic load on fuel cells; air delivery can easily consume more than 20% of the fuel cell power. We are developing scalable and robust active water management technology for PEM fuel cells using electroosmotic (EO) pumps in concert with integrated capillary structures (i.e., wicks). These devices offer unique advantages to fuel cell operation as they decouple air delivery from water management. Integrated wicking structures and EO pumps increase fuel cell power density by ensuring complete membrane hydration and eliminating flooding. This system enables low reactant flow rates, and near ambient pressures for high system efficiency. Our results demonstrate two-fold increases in maximum power density when EO pumping. The EO pump is a negligible parasitic load; it consumes less than 0.5% of the fuel cell power.

Back to Program


Partnering Events:

Co-Produced by

Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization
MIT·Stanford·UC Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum
Nano Science and Technology Institute

Gold Sponsor

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC

Silver Sponsor

New Mexico Economic Development Partnership

Break Sponsor



Omron Silicon Valley
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
American River Ventures
Economic and Workforce Development through the California Community Colleges
Controlled Contamination Services, LLC
Clean Technology International Corp.
Full Circle Solar
NanoDynamics, Inc.
Riverside Technologies
NanoSelect, Inc.
Power of Minus Nine
Akeena Solar
Charles Pankow Builders

Press Sponsor

Business Wire

Commercialization Partner


Media Sponsors

Science Magazine
Red Herring, Inc.
Fuel Cell Magazine
Battery Power Products & Technology
R&D Magazine
Sustainable Industries Journal
Inside Greentech
CLEAN — Soil, Air, Water