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Title:
FRAME SYSTEM AND ELECTROCHEMICAL CELL SYSTEM HAVING THE FRAME SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/049204
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An electrochemical cell system is provided including at least one electrochemical cell stack and an electrochemical cell frame system. The frame system includes at least one sub-frame for attaching the electrochemical cell stack to the frame system. The system may include a plurality of peripheral devices that can be mounted on the frame system using one or more brackets. The sub-frame may support one or more manifolds prior to mounting the electrochemical cell stack on the frame system. Related methods of assembling an electrochemical cell system are disclosed.

Inventors:
FRANK DAVID (CA)
NUNES VICENTE (CA)
Application Number:
CA2007/001870
Publication Date:
May 02, 2008
Filing Date:
October 22, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HYDROGENICS CORP (CA)
FRANK DAVID (CA)
NUNES VICENTE (CA)
International Classes:
H01M2/10; H01M8/02; H01M8/24
Domestic Patent References:
WO2006024124A12006-03-09
Foreign References:
US20050158606A12005-07-21
CA2545672A12005-06-16
US5607786A1997-03-04
JPH0498767A1992-03-31
US6110612A2000-08-29
JPS61116769A1986-06-04
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BERESKIN & PARR (Suite 4000Toronto, Ontario M5H 3Y2, CA)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. An electrochemical cell frame system comprising: a) a first rail; b) a second rail arranged substantially parallel to the first rail; c) at least one cross-member extending from the first rail to the second rail fastening the first rail to the second rail; and d) at least one electrochemical cell stack sub-frame attached to the first rail and the second rail.

2. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 1 , further comprising a plurality of brackets attachable to the frame system.

3. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 1 , further comprising at least one end bracket.

4. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 3, wherein the at least one end bracket includes process fluid connection apertures.

5. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 1 , wherein the first rail or the second rail comprise process fluid connection apertures.

6. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 1 , further comprising a plurality of peripheral device brackets.

7. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 1 , further comprising a plurality of frame system mounting brackets.

8. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 1 , wherein the sub-frame comprises a bottom portion and an end portion.

9. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 8, wherein the sub-frame further comprises side brace portions.

10. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 8, wherein the sub-frame further comprises at least one manifold aperture.

11. The electrochemical cell frame system as recited in claim 10, wherein the sub-frame supports at least one manifold retained in the at least one manifold aperture.

12. An electrochemical cell system comprising: a) a frame system including: i) a first rail; ii) a second rail arranged substantially parallel to the first rail; iii) at least one cross-member extending from the first rail to the second rail fastening the first rail to the second rail; and iv) a sub-frame attached to the first rail and the second rail; and b) a plurality of peripheral devices for operation of an electrochemical cell stack, at least one of the plurality of peripheral devices mounted on the frame system.

13. The electrochemical cell system as recited in claim 12, further comprising the electrochemical cell stack attached to the sub-frame.

14. The electrochemical cell system as recited in claim 12, further comprising at least one bracket for mounting at least one of the plurality of peripheral devices to the frame system.

15. The electrochemical cell system as recited in claim 13, further comprising at least one manifold providing connection between the electrochemical cell stack and at least one of the plurality of peripheral devices.

16. The electrochemical cell system as recited in claim 15, wherein the at least one manifold comprises process fluid inlets and outlets including at least one of: a) an anode gas inlet and an anode gas outlet; b) a cathode gas inlet and a cathode gas outlet; and c) a coolant inlet and a coolant outlet.

17. The electrochemical cell system as recited in claim 16, wherein the at least one manifold comprises first and second manifolds, and wherein for each of the process fluids, one of the inlet and the outlet is provided on the first manifold and the other of the inlet and the outlet is provided on the second manifold.

18. The electrochemical cell system as recited in claim 15, wherein the at least one manifold includes a plurality of sensors for sensing at least one of temperature, pressure, humidity and flow rate of at least one of the process fluids.

19. An electrochemical cell system comprising: a) a frame system including: i) a first rail; ii) a second rail arranged substantially parallel to the first rail; iii) at least one cross-member extending from the first rail to the second rail fastening the first rail to the second rail; and iv) a sub-frame attached to the first rail and the second rail; b) an electrochemical cell stack attached to the sub-frame; c) a plurality of peripheral devices for operation of an electrochemical cell stack; and

d) at least one manifold providing connection between the electrochemical cell stack and at least one of the plurality of peripheral devices.

20. A method of assembling an electrochemical cell system, the method comprising: providing a frame; and assembling balance of plant components on the frame, the balance of plant components including at least one manifold.

21. The method as claimed in claim 20, further comprising mounting an electrochemical cell stack on the frame.

22. The method as claimed in claim 21 , further comprising at least partially releasing the at least one manifold from the frame and mounting the at least one manifold to the electrochemical cell stack, whereby the at least one manifold is then supported by the electrochemical cell stack.

23. The method as claimed in claim 20, further comprising providing a sub- frame on the frame and mounting the at least one manifold to the sub-frame.

24. The method as claimed in claim 23, further comprising providing the at least one manifold as first and second manifolds, providing the sub-frame with first and second apertures, and mounting the first and second manifolds in the first and second apertures, prior to mounting of the electrochemical cell stack on the frame.

25. A method of assembling an electrochemical cell system, the method comprising: providing a frame; mounting balance of plant components on the frame; providing an electrochemical cell stack and mounting at least one manifold to the stack;

mounting the electrochemical cell stack and the at least one manifold to the frame; and connecting the balance of plant components to the at least one manifold.

Description:

TITLE: FRAME SYSTEM AND ELECTROCHEMICAL CELL SYSTEM HAVING THE FRAME SYSTEM

PRIORITY

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent

Application No. 60/862,571 , filed October 23, 2006.

FIELD [0002] This invention relates to a frame system for a fuel cell system, and more particularly relates to a frame system for mounting fuel cell stack, peripheral devices, and piping of fuel cell stacks.

BACKGROUND

[0003] The following paragraphs are not an admission that anything discussed in them is prior art or part of the knowledge of persons skilled in the art.

[0004] Fuel cells have been proposed as a clean, efficient and environmentally friendly source of power that can be utilized for various applications. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that produces an electromotive force by bringing the fuel (typically hydrogen) and an oxidant (typically air) into contact with two suitable electrodes and an electrolyte. A fuel, such as hydrogen gas, for example, is introduced at a first electrode, i.e. anode where it reacts electrochemically in the presence of the electrolyte to produce electrons and cations. The electrons are conducted from the anode to a second electrode, i.e. cathode through an electrical circuit connected between the electrodes. Cations pass through the electrolyte to the cathode. Simultaneously, an oxidant, such as oxygen gas or air is introduced to the cathode where the oxidant reacts electrochemically in presence of the electrolyte and catalyst, producing anions and consuming the electrons circulated through the electrical circuit; the cations are consumed at the second electrode. The anions formed at the second electrode or cathode react with the cations to form a reaction product. The anode may alternatively

be referred to as a fuel or oxidizing electrode, and the cathode may alternatively be referred to as an oxidant or reducing electrode. The half-cell reactions at the two electrodes are, respectively, as follows:

H 2 →2H + + 2e Y 2 O 2 + 2H + + 2e ~ → H 2 O

[0005] The external electrical circuit withdraws electrical current and thus receives electrical power from the fuel cell. The overall fuel cell reaction produces electrical energy as shown by the sum of the separate half-cell reactions written above. Water and heat are typical by-products of the reaction. Accordingly, the use of fuel cells in power generation offers potential environmental benefits compared with power generation from combustion of fossil fuels or by nuclear activity. Some examples of applications are distributed residential power generation and automotive power systems to reduce emission levels. [0006] In practice, fuel cells are not operated as single units. Rather fuel cells are connected in series, stacked one on top of the other, or placed side-by-side, to form what is usually referred to as a fuel cell stack. The fuel, oxidant and coolant are supplied through respective delivery subsystems to the fuel cell stack. Also within the stack are current collectors, cell-to-cell seals and insulation, with required piping and instrumentation provided externally to the fuel cell stack.

[0007] Fuel cell stacks have been used as power sources in various applications, such as fuel cell powered electric vehicles, residential power generator, auxiliary power unit, uninterrupted power source, etc. For fuel cell stacks to be used in power generation applications, many peripheral devices, conditioning devices are needed since fuel cell stacks rely on peripheral preconditioning devices for optimum or even proper operation. Extensive piping and plumbing work is also required for connection between such devices. These peripheral devices, together with the pipes, etc., are generally called the balance-of-plant (BOP).

[0008] For example, in the situation where the fuel gas of the fuel cell stack is not pure hydrogen, but rather hydrogen containing fluid, e.g., natural gas a reformer is usually required in the fuel delivery subsystem for reforming the hydrogen containing material to provide pure hydrogen to the fuel cell stack. Moreover, in the situation where the electrolyte of the fuel cell is a proton exchange membrane, since most of the membranes currently available requires a wet surface to facilitate the conduction of protons from the anode to the cathode, and otherwise to maintain the membranes electrically conductive, a humidifier is usually required to humidify the fuel or oxidant gas before it comes into the fuel cell stack. In addition, most conventional fuel cell systems utilize several heat exchangers in gas and coolant delivery subsystems to dissipate the heat generated in the fuel cell reaction, provide coolant to the fuel cell stack, and heat or cool the process gases. In some applications, the process gases or coolant may need to be pressurized before entering the fuel cell stack, and therefore, compressors and pumps may be added to the delivery subsystems.

[0009] These peripheral devices as well as the fuel cell stacks are often packaged together as a fuel cell power module (FCPM), which will often be disposed in a confined environment, where space is limited, such as vehicular applications or other portable applications. Usually extensive mounting fixtures are required. Access to individual components is sometimes hindered should a repair/replacement be necessary.

[0010] There is a need for a FCPM that is easy to assemble, maintain and service, and has flexibility for vibration and other unfavorable conditions.

SUMMARY

[0011] The following introduction is intended to introduce the reader to this specification but not to define any invention. One or more inventions may reside in a combination or sub-combination of the apparatus elements or method steps described below or in other parts of this document. The inventor does not waive or disclaim his rights to any invention or inventions

- A -

disclosed in this specification merely by not describing such other invention or inventions in the claims.

[0012] In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, there is provided an electrochemical cell frame system comprising: a first rail; a second rail arranged substantially parallel to the first rail; at least one cross- member extending from the first rail to the second rail fastening the first rail to the second rail; and at least one electrochemical cell stack sub-frame attached to the first rail and the second rail.

[0013] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an electrochemical cell system comprising: (a) a frame system including: a first rail; a second rail arranged substantially parallel to the first rail; at least one cross-member extending from the first rail to the second rail fastening the first rail to the second rail; and a sub-frame attached to the first rail and the second rail; and (b) a plurality of peripheral devices for operation of an electrochemical cell stack, at least one of the plurality of peripheral devices mounted on the frame system.

[0014] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an electrochemical cell system comprising: (a) a frame system including: a first rail; a second rail arranged substantially parallel to the first rail; at least one cross-member extending from the first rail to the second rail fastening the first rail to the second rail; and a sub-frame attached to the first rail and the second rail; (b) an electrochemical cell stack attached to the sub-frame; (c) a plurality of peripheral devices for operation of an electrochemical cell stack; and (d) at least one manifold providing connection between the electrochemical cell stack and at least one of the plurality of peripheral devices.

[0015] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of assembling an electrochemical cell system, the method comprising: providing a frame; and assembling balance of plant components on the frame, the balance of plant components including at least one manifold.

[0016] In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of assembling an electrochemical cell system, the method comprising: providing a frame; mounting balance of plant components on the frame; providing an electrochemical cell stack and mounting at least one manifold to the stack; mounting the electrochemical cell stack and the at least one manifold to the frame; and connecting the balance of plant components to the at least one manifold.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0017] For a better understanding of the present invention and to show more clearly how it may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings which show, by way of example, one or more embodiments of the present invention and in which:

[0018] FIG. 1a is a perspective view illustrating one embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention; [0019] FIG. 1 b is a further perspective view of the frame system shown in FIG. 1a;

[0020] FIG. 1c is still a further perspective view of the frame system shown in FIG. 1a;

[0021] FIG. 1d is a further perspective view of the frame system shown in FIG. 1a;

[0022] FIG. 1e is a top elevational view of the frame system shown in

FIG. 1a;

[0023] FIG. 1f is a side elevational view of the frame system shown in

FIG. 1a; [0024] FIG. 1g is a bottom view of the frame system shown in FIG. 1a;

[0025] FIG. 1h is a back elevational view of the frame system shown in

FIG. 1a;

[0026] FIG. 1 i is a front view of the frame system shown in FIG. 1a;

[0027] FIG. 2a is a perspective view illustrating one embodiment of a sub-frame for a frame system according to the present invention;

[0028] FIG. 2b is a further perspective view of the sub-frame shown in

FIG. 2a; [0029] FIG. 2c is still a further perspective view of the sub-frame shown in FIG. 2a;

[0030] FIG. 2d is a top elevational view of the sub-frame shown in FIG.

2a;

[0031] FIG. 2e is a side elevational view of the sub-frame shown in FIG. 2a;

[0032] FIG. 2f is a bottom view of the sub-frame shown in FIG. 2a;

[0033] FIG. 2g is a back elevational view of the sub-frame shown in

FIG. 2a;

[0034] FIG. 2h is a front view of the sub-frame shown in FIG. 2a; [0035] FIG. 3a is a perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having one embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention;

[0036] FIG. 3b is a further perspective view of the electrochemical cell system shown in FIG. 3a; [0037] FIG. 3c is still a further perspective view of the electrochemical cell system shown in FIG. 3a;

[0038] FIG. 3d is a further perspective view of the electrochemical cell system shown in FIG. 3a;

[0039] FIG. 4a is a perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having one embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack and electronics box are mounted onto the frame system and a detail of one manifold mounted to the sub-frame;

[0040] FIG. 4b is a perspective view of the electrochemical cell system shown in FIG. 4a, showing the cell stack about to be mounted to the sub- frame of the frame system;

[0041] FIG. 5 is a perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell stack according to one embodiment of the present invention, showing the manifolds mounted directly on the stack before the stack is inserted into the sub-frame;

[0042] FIG. 6a is a perspective view illustrating a further embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention; [0043] FIG. 6b is a further perspective view of the frame system shown in FIG. 6a;

[0044] FIG. 6c is a perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 6a;

[0045] FIG. 6d is a further perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 6a;

[0046] FIG. 6e is a perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 6a, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack is mounted onto the frame system; [0047] FIG. 6f is a further perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 6a, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack is mounted onto the frame system;

[0048] FIG. 7a is a perspective view illustrating a further embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention;

[0049] FIG. 7b is a further perspective view of the frame system shown in FIG. 7a;

[0050] FIG. 7c is a perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 7a;

[0051] FIG. 7d is a further perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 7a;

[0052] FIG. 7e is a perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 7a, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack is mounted onto the frame system;

[0053] FIG. 7f is a further perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 7a, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack is mounted onto the frame system;

[0054] FIG. 8a is a perspective view illustrating a further embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention;

[0055] FIG. 8b is a perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 8a; [0056] FIG. 8c is a perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 8a, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack is mounted onto the frame system;

[0057] FIG. 9a is a perspective view illustrating still a further embodiment of a frame system according to the present invention;

[0058] FIG. 9b is a perspective view illustrating an electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 9a; and

[0059] FIG. 9c is a perspective view illustrating a electrochemical cell system having the frame system shown in FIG. 9a, showing the BOP assembled to the frame system, but before the stack is mounted onto the frame system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0060] Various apparatuses or methods will be described below to provide an example of an embodiment of each claimed invention. No

embodiment described below limits any claimed invention and any claimed invention may cover apparatuses or methods that are not described below. The claimed inventions are not limited to apparatuses or methods having all of the features of any one apparatus or method described below or to features common to multiple or all of the apparatuses described below. It is possible that an apparatus or method described below is not an embodiment of any claimed invention. The applicants, inventors and owners reserve all rights in any invention disclosed in an apparatus or method described below that is not claimed in this document and do not abandon, disclaim or dedicate to the public any such invention by its disclosure in this document.

[0061] FIGS. 1a to 1 i show an embodiment of an electrochemical cell frame system 10 according to the present invention. It is to be appreciated that the cell frame system 10 can be of any configuration and the electrochemical cell stacks intended for use with the frame system may comprise any type of fuel cells, such as Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells, alkaline fuel cells, or electrolyzer cells. Examples of fuel cell systems were disclosed in U.S. Patent Nos. 7,018,732 and 6,875,535, herein incorporated in whole by reference.

[0062] The electrochemical cell frame system 10 has a first rail 20 and a second rail 30, which may be substantially parallel to the first rail. At least one cross-member 40 may extend from the first rail 20 to the second rail 30 fastening the first rail 20 to the second rail 30. Only one cross-member 40 is shown for clarity; the number and shape of one or more cross-members 40 depend on factors such as frame length and the number and weight of components to be mounted on the frame system, for example.

[0063] At least one electrochemical cell stack sub-frame 50 may be attached to the first rail 20 and the second rail 30. Again, only one sub-frame 50 is shown for clarity, with the number of sub-frames depending on how many electrochemical cell stacks are to be mounted on the frame system. The sub-frame can be attached permanently, i.e. welded, or can be removably attached, i.e. affixed with fasteners.

[0064] A number of different brackets 60, 70, 73, 75, 80, 85 and 90, respectively, may be arranged on the frame system, either on one of the first 20 or second 30 rails or on the sub-frame 50. In FIGS. 1a to 1 i are shown an end bracket 60, which includes openings for mounting interface connections, such as electrical bus bar connections, process fluid connections, etc. The end bracket may extend from the first rail 20 to the second rail 30. The end bracket may have at least one bracket 100, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system, as will be discussed below. Further, one or more peripheral device bracket 70, 73, 75 may be mounted on the second rail 30, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system. Similarly, at least one peripheral device bracket 80, 85 may be mounted on the first rail 20, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system. The cross-member 40 may similarly have a bracket 45, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system. The sub-frame 50 may have a peripheral device bracket 90, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system.

[0065] The first rail 20 may have frame system mounting brackets 110 for attaching the frame system to a support structure (not shown), such as a rack. Similarly, the second rail 30 may have frame system mounting brackets 120 for attaching the frame system to a support structure. Alternatively, or in cooperation with the mounting brackets 110, 120, respectively, the first rail 20 and the second rail 30 may have posts 130, to allow the frame system 10 to be slidingly mounted relative the support structure.

[0066] The first rail 20 may further have an electronics device bracket 55, for mounting electronic devices such as an ECU (electronic control unit), which will be described in detail below. The second rail 30 may have a corresponding electronics device bracket 57.

[0067] FIGS. 2a to 2h show an embodiment of the removable sub- frame 50 according to the present invention. The sub-frame has a bottom portion 51 , which may be shaped to conform to the bottom shape of the electrochemical cell (not shown, see below) to be mounted in the sub-frame.

Further, an end portion 52 of the sub-frame is shaped to cooperate with at least a part of one end of the electrochemical cell stack (not shown, see below), by for example enveloping at least part of the cell stack. The end portion may have side brace portions 58, to provide rigidity to the sub-frame 50. Further, the end portion may have manifold apertures 53 and 54, to allow manifolds (not shown, see below) of the electrochemical stack to protrude through the end portion 52. Mounting holes 56 may be provided in the end portion for the bracket 90. Further mounting holes 61 may be provided to mount peripheral devices (not shown) directly to the sub-frame. The bottom portion 51 may have mounting holes 57, to fasten the electrochemical cell stack (not shown, see below) to the sub-frame 50. The bottom portion may further have a lightening aperture 59, to reduce the weight of the sub-frame as well as provide access to an underside of the cell stack. The sub-frame further has mounting holes 62 for temporarily mounting manifolds (not shown, see below) to the sub-frame.

[0068] FIGS. 3a to 3d show an electrochemical cell system utilizing a frame system as described above having peripheral devices (BOP) of the electrochemical cell system mounted thereon. The peripheral devices may include, for example, blowers, recirculation pumps, humidifiers, water filters, air filters, etc. The reference numbers used to describe the frame system above are used also for FIGS. 3a to 3d to describe the corresponding features. The whole electrochemical cell system 200 is generally referred to as a fuel cell power module, when the cell stack is a fuel cell stack. A cell stack 210 is mounted on the sub-frame 50, which is mounted on the first rail 20 and the second rail 30. Manifolds 220 of the stack protrude through manifold apertures (53 and 54, see FIGS. 2a, etc.) of the end portion 52 of the sub-frame. BOP devices 205 are attached to the first frame and the second frame via the cross-member 40, the device brackets 45, 70, 73, 75, 80, 85 and 90 and the end bracket 60 with its specialized bracket 100. Process fluid connections 230 are arranged on the end bracket, together with auxiliary fluid connections 240, such as compressed air and nitrogen, and the electric

output 250 from the cell stack (electric input 250 if the cell stack is an electrolyzer stack).

[0069] Connections to the manifolds usually include: anode gas inlet and outlet; cathode gas inlet and outlet; coolant inlet and outlet; various sensors for, e.g., pressure, temperature, humidity, flow rate. Usually, for each process fluid, the inlet is provided on one manifold, and the outlet on the other manifold.

[0070] An ECU box 260, containing the ECU and other possibly electronic devices, is mounted on the device bracket 55 and device bracket 57. Electric connections 270 may be attached to the ECU box, to provide attachment for connecting the ECU to the outside world.

[0071] FIGS. 4a and 4b show an embodiment of the present invention where the sub-frame 50 supports at least part of the BOP during assembly and the sub-frame also locates the manifolds 220 to the stack. The electrochemical cell system 200' not including the stack 210 is shown in FIG. 4a. When the cell stack 210 is inserted into the sub-frame 50 (see FIGS. 4b and 3a to 3d above), the manifolds 220, which are temporarily fastened to the sub-frame utilizing mounting holes 62, are loosened, positioned and then fastened to the stack. At this point, the sub-frame is not supporting the BOP anymore, rather the stack is. The reference numbers used for FIGS. 3a to 3d are used for FIGS. 4a and 4b to describe the same features. The manifolds 220 have mounting studs 225 to temporarily attach the manifolds, using for example screws (not shown), to the mounting holes 62 of the sub-frame 50.

[0072] Alternatively to what is shown in FIGS. 4a to 4b, the manifolds 220 may be mounted directly to the cell stack 210 before the stack is mounted onto the sub-frame 50. This is shown in FIG. 5. This then requires all the connections to the BOP, to be made after the stack 210 is mounted on the frame. After the cell stack 210 has been mounted onto the sub-frame 50, the

ECU box 260 may be attached to the electronics device brackets 55 and 57, respectively.

[0073] A further embodiment of the sub-frame concept utilizes a support bracket 50' split in two parts, one for each manifold 220. It is also conceivable that, where the support bracket is only used to support the manifolds 220, the sub-frame could be made removable. Then, after a stack 210 had been mounted and the manifolds 220 attached, each sub-frame 50 can be removed, as no longer being necessary.

[0074] By utilizing a frame system according to the invention where a sub-frame 50 is attachable to the first and second rails 20, 30, respectively, the assembly of an FCPM is greatly facilitated. The BOP is mounted on the frame system 10 with the sub-frame 50, and the cell stack is then mounted on the frame system 10, and is connected to the manifolds 220. This enables the BOP 205 and the cell stack 210 to be assembled at separate stations and tested as sub-assemblies before being mounted together.

[0075] Alternatively, where the stack 210 is first attached to the manifolds 220, the sub-frame 50 is not necessarily used, although it may still be used to support other elements of the BOP. In this case, when the stack 210 with manifolds 220 is mounted on the frame system 10, the necessary hoses and other connections need to be made to the manifolds 220.

[0076] Alternatively, another method of assembling an electrochemical cell system comprises (a) providing a frame, (b) providing an electrochemical cell stack and mounting at least one manifold to the stack, (c) mounting the electrochemical cell stack and the at least one manifold to the frame, (d) mounting balance of plant components on the frame, and (e) connecting the balance of plant components to the at least one manifold. Each of these steps need not take place at the same location. For example, steps (a), (b) and (c) can take place at a different location than steps (d) and (e).

[0077] It should be appreciated that advantages of the present invention relate to the fact that BOP components 205 and the electrochemical cell stack 210 can be assembled and tested separately for a particular electrochemical cell system 200. In other words, the present invention enables the electrochemical cell system 200 to be assembled in two stages.

First, the BOP components 205, which typically comprise common and/or standardized mechanical peripheral devices, can be mounted to the frame system 10. Second, the stack 210 can be mounted to the frame system 10. The two stages can be carried out at different manufacturing locations. This is advantageous because, for example, assembling of the electrochemical cell stack typically must be undertaken under higher conditions of cleanliness. This also enables the balance of plant 205 and electrochemical cell stack 210 to be tested separately for leaks and the like. Thus, after assembly the balance of plant 205, the entire frame system 10 with the balance of plant components 205 can be tested to ensure that all the components are operating properly and that there are no leaks. Similarly, the stack 210 can be tested by itself, with respect to leakage and electrical properties. Then, when the stack 210 is mated with the frame assembly 10, the only aspects of the final assembly that should require testing are the fluid and electrical connections between the stack 210 and the balance of plant components. Where the manifolds 220 have been provided with the balance of plant components, this then minimizes the possibility for leaks to be present at this stage.

[0078] Another embodiment of an electrochemical frame system in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIGS. 6a to 6f. For ease of reference and sake of brevity, the reference numbers used for FIGS. 1 to 5 are used for FIGS. 6 to 9 illustrating further embodiments of the present invention to describe like features.

[0079] The electrochemical cell frame system 1010 has a first rail 1020 and a second rail 1030, which may be substantially parallel to the first rail. At least one cross-member 1040 may extend from the first rail 1020 to the second rail 1030 fastening the first rail 1020 to the second rail 1030. Again, at least one electrochemical cell stack sub-frame 1050 may be attached to the first rail 1020 and the second rail 1030.

[0080] With reference to FIGS. 6b and 6d, in this example the first rail

1020 includes openings for mounting interface connections, such as electrical bus bar connections, process fluid connections, etc.

[0081] Again, a number of different brackets 1070, 1073, 1080 may be arranged on the frame system 1010, either on one of the first 1020 or second 1030 rails or on the sub-frame 1050. Two end brackets 1060 may be provided extending from the first rail 1020 to the second rail 1030.

[0082] In this example, one end bracket includes a flange portion 1300 for supporting an ECU box. The first rail 1020 may further have electronics device brackets 1055, for mounting the ECU box, which in this example is disposed parallel to the first rail 1020.

[0083] FIGS. 6c to 6f show an electrochemical cell system 1200 utilizing the frame system 1010. A cell stack 1210 is mounted on the sub- frame 1050. Manifolds 1220 of the stack protrude through manifold apertures. BOP devices 1205 and an ECU box 1260 are attached. Interface connections including process fluid connections 1230, auxiliary fluid connections 1240, electric output 1250, and control electrical connections 1310 are arranged on the side of the second rail 1030.

[0084] A further embodiment of an electrochemical frame system in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIGS. 7a to 7f. Again, the electrochemical cell frame system 2010 has a first rail 2020, a second rail

2030, at least one cross-member 2040, and at least one electrochemical cell stack sub-frame 2050. The first rail 2020 is offset inwardly toward the second rail 2030 providing a generally smaller footprint for the electrochemical frame system 2010. The sub-frame 2050 includes side brace portions 2058 and also includes support bracket 2320 for bracing and supporting additional peripheral devices, such as a water filter, for example.

[0085] FIGS. 7c to 7f show an electrochemical cell system 2200 utilizing the frame system 2010. A cell stack 2210 is mounted on the sub- frame 2050. Manifolds 2220 of the stack protrude through manifold apertures.

BOP devices 2205 are attached. In this example, the electrochemical cell system 2200 does not include an ECU.

[0086] A further embodiment of an electrochemical frame system in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIGS. 8a to 8c. The electrochemical cell frame system 3010 includes a first rail 3020, a second rail 3030, at least one cross-member 3040 may extend from the first rail 3020 to the second rail 3030, and at least one electrochemical cell stack sub-frame 3050 may be attached to the first rail 3020 and the second rail 3030.

[0087] End brackets 3060 are provided. The end bracket 3060 adjacent to the BOP components includes openings for mounting interface connections, such as electrical bus bar connections, process fluid connections, etc. One or more peripheral device bracket 3070, 3080 may be mounted on the first rail 3020 or the second rail 3030,for mounting peripheral devices. The cross-member 3040 may similarly have a bracket 3045, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system. The sub- frame 3050 may have a peripheral device bracket 3090, for mounting peripheral devices of the electrochemical cell system.

[0088] The first rail 3020 may further have an electronics device bracket 3055 for mounting the ECU, and the second rail 3030 may have a corresponding electronics device bracket 3057. The sub-frame 3050 may include side brace portions 3058 and manifold apertures 3053 and 3054.

[0089] FIGS. 8b and 8c show an electrochemical cell system 3200 utilizing frame system 3010 and comprising a cell stack 3210, BOP devices 3205 and ECU 3260. Process fluid connections 3230 are arranged on the end bracket, together with auxiliary fluid connections 3240, electric output 3250 from the cell stack, and control electrical connections 3310. In this example, end bracket 3060 further comprises a flanged connector 3330 that may be used for circulation of air within the electrochemical cell system 3200.

[0090] Having the ECU at a front of the electrochemical cell system 3200 enables free access to the control electronics, and similarly having all

interface connections disposed along a rear wall of the system creates a back working area. For these reasons, the configuration for electrochemical cell system 3200 is particularly well suited to be implemented in a vertical rack with other systems, and either run separately or connected in parallel or series with other systems.

[0091] A still further embodiment of an electrochemical frame system in accordance with the present invention is shown in FIGS. 9a to 9b. In this case, electrochemical cell frame system 4010 is somewhat similar to electrochemical cell frame system 3010, but further comprises a bracket 4340 having a cuff for retaining a cylindrical peripheral device (for example, a hydrogen or air reservoir), among other minor differences. For the sake of brevity, the remaining like features will not be discussed.

[0092] It should be appreciated that the spirit of the present invention is concerned with providing a frame system for integration of an electrochemical system. The type and internal structure of the cell stack does not affect the design of the present invention. In other words, the present invention is applicable to various types of fuel cells, electrolyzers or other electrochemical cell systems. The type, number, position, size and pattern of the electrochemical cell stack and the type, number, position and arrangement of peripheral devices are not necessarily identical as disclosed herein.

[0093] It is anticipated that those having ordinary skill in this art can make various modification to the one or more embodiments disclosed herein after learning the teaching of the present invention. However, these modifications should be considered to fall under the protection scope of the invention as defined in the following claims.




 
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