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Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell History

photo of phosphoric acid fuel cell and development team, about 1965.

"Project team for 5kw phosphoric acid fuel cell system,
Allis-Chalmers, 1965."

front row, left to right: Milton Jakola, Merle Engle
Image #224943Q from U.S. Army

In the early 1970s, the National Museum of American History mounted an exhibition on energy conversion. The U.S. Army offered to donate variety of images and objects related to fuel cells. This photo shows both a complete 5 kilowatt PAFC and the engineering team that made it. Components, but not the complete unit, were collected.

A note stapled to the photo reads: "Project team for 5kw phosphoric acid fuel cell system, Allis-Chalmers, 1965." None of the team members are identified. A page dated 18 July 1969 "prepared by Milton Jakola, U.S. Army" describes the system:

"The most recent effort of the Army to develop a fuel cell power plant is the Phosphoric Acid approach. Hydrogen is obtained for this system by the thermal cracking of logistic fuels. The oxygen is obtained from the air. Current densities exceeding 100 ASF (amps per sq. ft.) @ 0.75 volts have been repeatedly obtained.

"The system operates at 300o F ± 10o. The elevated temperature minimizes the effect of carbon monoxide which is a by-product of the thermal cracking. Since the system is acid, the problem of contamination by carbon dioxide on the cathode is non existant. [sic]

"Component parts of the system are Viton rubber gaskets molded on a tantalum screen. Folded stainless steel manifold plates, these are gold plated to minimize corrosion effects of the phosphoric acid. One complete electrode package manufactured by Englehard Industries. This package contains a sandwich type arrangement of an anode, cathode, and the matrix containing the phosphoric acid."

If you have information about this fuel cell image, or PAFC technology in general, please fill out the Collecting History questionnaire accessible through the link at the top of the previous page.

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