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An Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Project In Fuel Cell Development

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.174.1 - 6.174.17



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Paper Authors

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Per Reinhall

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Michael Jenkins

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Joyce Cooper

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Angela Linse

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Eric Stuve

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2325

An Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Project in Fuel Cell Development

Eric M. Stuve,a Per G. Reinhall,b Michael G. Jenkins,b Joyce S. Cooper,b Angela Linsec aDepartment of Chemical Engineering/ bDepartment of Mechanical Engineering cCenter for Engineering Learning and Teaching University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195


Since 1996 the University of Washington has maintained an interdisciplinary capstone design project to develop proton exchange membrane fuel cells running on hydrogen and air, along with their applications. Currently, the project involves about 20 chemical and mechanical engineering students. Work is divided into three main areas of fuel cells: development, applications, and manufacturing. Fuel cell development involves fabrication and characterization of individual fuel cells and assembling these together into stacks of up to 40 individual cells. The applications group develops design specifications for the intended applications, which include a 1/3 scale locomotive, modified SAE car, and portable devices such as radios and laptop computers. The manufacturing group investigates cost saving means for producing fuel cell components, especially the membrane electrode assemblies and flow field plates.

To date the students have succeeded in developing a single fuel cell with performance specifications of 0.25 A/cm2 at 0.6 V, which is within a factor of 2-4 of current industrial standards. Stack development is currently underway. The locomotive and two passenger coaches have already been constructed. The locomotive, which will require a 10 kW fuel cell, rides on 18 inch gauge track and has a 100 V, 13 hp electric motor.

I. Introduction

Today’s engineers need to function efficiently in interdisciplinary groups on a daily basis. They still need to specialize in a certain area, but they must also communicate and work efficiently with other group members. Working in interdisciplinary design groups gives students the opportunity to develop those personal and teamwork skills.

The interdisciplinary design experience demands a personal element from the engineering student, who must sort through often confusing and sometimes misleading data in the process of designing a working device. Through participation in an interdisciplinary project that requires a variety of students and their unique talents to design and build a real, complex machine. The students can gain an appreciation of the necessity of working in groups and learn how to do it efficiently.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Edication Annual Conference & Exposition Copywright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Reinhall, P., & Jenkins, M., & Cooper, J., & Linse, A., & Stuve, E. (2001, June), An Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Project In Fuel Cell Development Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9451

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