Technical Development and Experimental Test of Electrically Controllable Membrane Units in Proton-Exchange-Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC).

BMWi-Project (FKZ 03ET6133A)


By introducing fuel cell systems into the energy system, the flexibility and the security of supply of an energy system based on renewable energies can be significantly increased.

The drawbacks of nowadays fuel cells and electrolyser systems, especially for the so called sector coupling, are amongst others the non-controllable reaction kinetics due to the non-controllable membrane behavior. Additionally, inhomogeneous overloads reduce the lifetime of the proton exchange membranes. For this reason the group for Electrical Energy Systems (EES; Professor Schulz) from the Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, aims to develop new technical approaches for internally controlled fuel cell systems. One promising approach is the introduction of additional electrical fields into the membrane electrolyte assembly (MEA) to control the membrane unit. By this introduced internal controllability, the dynamic response and therefore the response to load jumps of fuel cells can be optimized. At the same time the membrane load is homogenized which leads to a reduction in material stress and therefore to a prolonged membrane lifetime.

The subproject comprises the development of a controllable membrane unit for fuel cells. In a first step, the novel membrane units with internal control unit will be built and tested as a model and as a single cell prototype. The results of the simulations as well as of the characterizing experiments of the single cell serve as mutual base for further optimization of the controllable membrane unit. Subsequently, dynamic tests as well as lifetime tests will be performed with the optimized prototype. Finally, a fuel cell stack including the novel controllable membrane unit will be realized.

Fuel Cell Laboratory

For developping and testing the novel membrane units for fuel cells and electrolysers, there is a laboratory container with two test benches at the Helmut-Schmidt-University. Figure 1 shows the container from the outside. The size of the container are l = 6m, w = 5m, d = 3m. The laboratory is big enough for three people. Figure 2 shows the container from the inside.


Figure 1: Laboratory container for controllable membrane units for fuel cells up to 12kW
Abbildung 3: Innenaufbau des Laborcontainers
Figure 2: Laboratory container from the inside.











The two fuel cell test benches, one for stacks and one for single cells, are connected to two gas sources for anode and cathode gas respectively, the exhaust unit, the cooling unit and the load selector.

Figrue 3 shows the single cell test bench, which is used for the characterization and analysis of the single cells. Due to the special sensor system of the test bench, up to ten single cells can be tested at the same time.


Abbildung 4: Einzelteststand
Figure 3: Single cell test bench
Abbildung 5: Systemintegrationsteststand
Figure 4: Fuel cell stack test bench













The other test bench is an initializing test bench, which is depicted in Figure 4. This test bench is equipped with an automation system where a continuous operation of a fuel cell stack can be tested under varying loads. The integrated sensor system allows for load dependent mass flux, temperature, moisture and pressure of the fuels as well as to control the temperature of the cooling medium.

Project partner:

The project StBZuEL – Development and Test of Electrically Controllable Membrane Units in Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells and Electrolysers with an Internal Methanation Unit in the Gas Exhaust Pipe is realized in cooperation with Altran Germany S.A.S. & Co. KG.


[1] Schulz, D.: Brennstoffzellenmembraneinheit, steuerbare Brennstoffzelle und Hochdruckelektrolysezelle, 15.12.2011, Patent DE 10 2011 088 613

[2] Schulz, D.: INTERNALLY CONTROLLABLE FUEL CELL, United States Patent, Patent No.: US 9,437,887 B2, Sep.6, 2016

[3] Schulz, D.: INTERNALLY CONTROLLABLE FUEL CELL, European patent No. 2791392, 16.08.2017

[4] Schulz, D.: INTERNALLY CONTROLLABLE FUEL CELL, Chinese patent, Patent No.: ZL2012800617937, 6.12.2017

[5] Schulz, D.: HIGH EFFICIENCY FUEL CELL, European patent No. 2978875, 07.03.18

[6] Schulz, D.: HIGH EFFICIENCY FUEL CELL, Chinese patent, Patent No.: ZL 2014800178483, 22.06.2018

[7] Schulz, D.: HIGH EFFICIENCY FUEL CELL, United States Patent, Patent No.: US 1050235506 B2, Jul. 17, 2018


Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Detlef Schulz (project lead)
Marc Schumann, M.Sc.
Jan Friedrich M.Sc.
Faculty for Electrical Engineering
Electrical Energy Systems




Letzte Änderung: 13. May 2019