Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Vahidi, Ardalan

Committee Member

Wagner , John

Committee Member

Collins , Randy


This thesis presents the system architecture design, system integration methodology, and real-time control of a fuel cell/ultracapacitor hybrid power system. The main objective is for the hybrid system to respond to real-world fluctuations in power without negatively impacting fuel cell life.
A Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cell is an electrochemical device which converts the chemical energy of pure hydrogen into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen. The high conversion efficiency, zero harmful emissions, high power-to-weight ratio, scalability, and low temperature operation make PEM fuel cells very attractive for stationary and portable power applications. However, fuel cells are limited in responding to fast transients in power demand, moreover power fluctuations have negative impact on fuel cell durability. This motivates the use of a supplementary energy storage device to assist the fuel cell by buffering sharp transients in power demand. The high power density, long cycle life, and efficiency of ultracapacitors make them an ideal solution for such auxiliary energy storage in a hybrid fuel cell system.
The power management strategy that determines the power split between the fuel cell and ultracapacitor is key to the power following capability, long-term performance, and life-time of the fuel cell. In this thesis, a rule-based and a model predictive control strategy are designed, implemented and evaluated for power management of a fuel cell/ultracapacitor hybrid. The high-level control objectives are to respond to rapid variations in load while minimizing damaging fluctuations in fuel cell current and maintaining ultracapacitor charge (or voltage) within allowable bounds.
An experimental test stand was created to evaluate the performance of the controllers. The test stand connects the fuel cell and ultracapacitor to an electronic load through two dc/dc converters, which provide two degrees of freedom, enabling independent low-level control of the DC BUS voltage and the current split between the fuel cell and ultracapacitor. Experiments show that both rule-based and model predictive power management strategies can be tuned to meet both high and low-level control objectives for a given power demand profile. However, the capability to explicitly enforce the constraints in model predictive scheme and its predictive nature in meeting power demands enables a more systematic design and results in general in smoother performance.



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