The main challenges of low temperature (80–120°C) Nafion-based PEM technology are (1) low cathode performance due to slow kinetics of the oxygen reduction reaction (2) high material costs (3) considerable system design and operation for water management (4) low tolerance to impurities in fuel stream and (5) low quality heat resulting in low overall system efficiency. Furthermore, Nafion membranes achieve maximum conductivity only when hydrated, limiting their operation to <100 C. Operating the fuel cell >100 C is desirable to overcome the aforementioned limitations. Though several high temperature membranes for PEMFC have been developed, polybenzimidazole (PBI) membranes with high Phosphoric acid content (>90%) developed by BASF Fuel cell are currently seeing commercial interest. The most vital step in MEA manufacturing is the sealing of the membrane in between the electrode-substrate assembly to form a five-layer architecture. Currently, MEA sealing is done by a thermal seal process. This paper examines the effect of thermal sealing process parameters, namely (1) sealing temperature (2) percent compression (3) sealing time and (4) manufacturer-specified post-processing after sealing on the fuel cell performance. A design of experiments was developed with these input process parameters and the polarization behavior during single cell operation, as well as internal cell resistance, were analyzed as performance parameters. ANOVA analysis revealed the statistically significant input factors for the thermal sealing process, which are essential for the rapid and high-quality manufacturing of membrane electrode assemblies for high temperature fuel cells. Furthermore, a multiphysics model has been developed to allow for further refinement of the MEA sealing process.

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