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Research Papers

Studying the Water Transport in a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell by Neutron Radiography and Relative Humidity Sensors

[+] Author and Article Information
Yong-Song Chen1

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, 1231 Beal Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2121

Huei Peng

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, 1231 Beal Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2121

1

Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 6(3), 031016 (Jun 08, 2009) (13 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3006312 History: Received June 17, 2007; Revised January 28, 2008; Published June 08, 2009

Water management in a fuel cell is essential to ensure cell performance and life. In this study, a special single cell was designed for the purpose of detecting liquid water and water vapor simultaneously. The major difference between our design and traditional flow field designs is the fact that the anode and cathode channels were shifted sideways, so that they do not overlap in the majority of the active areas. The liquid water is measured by using neutron radiography located at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The water vapor is measured by the 20 relative humidity sensors embedded in the anode and cathode flow field plates. The effects of the relative humidity and stoichiometry of the cathode inlet on relative humidity distribution in the channels and on water accumulation in the gas diffusion layers (GDLs) were investigated in this study. The liquid water accumulation at steady-state was calculated by using imaging mask techniques and least-squares method. The transient behavior of water transport was detected and recorded when a step load change was applied on the cell. It is demonstrated that liquid water tends to accumulate in the gas diffusion layers under the rib. Moreover, the transient behavior of liquid water transport in the GDL and the relative humidity distribution in both the anode and cathode channels at different operating conditions are discussed.

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Schematic of the mechanism for liquid water transport in the GDL

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Figure 2

Flow field design used in this study: (a) cathode and (b) anode. The rectangular holes are the positions of relative humidity sensors.

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Figure 3

A flow field plate embedded with ten relative humidity sensors

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Figure 4

(a) Schematic of the experimental setup. (b) The single cell.

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Figure 5

Schematic of water accumulation in six areas

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Figure 6

Four masks used to quantify liquid water in (a) Ch-Ch, (b) Rib-Rib, (c) Ca_rib, and (d) An_rib areas

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Figure 7

The active area is divided into 15 segments. Segments are numbered successively along the anode flow channels.

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Figure 8

A colorized neutron image (current density: 0.4 A cm−2; anode/cathode stoichiometry: 1.2/3; cathode inlet RH: 100%)

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Figure 9

Average liquid water thicknesses in the (a) cathode channel, (b) anode channel, (c) cathode GDL under the channel, (d) anode GDL under the channel, (e) cathode GDL under the rib, and (f) anode GDL under the rib when the cathode inlet RH is 50%

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Figure 10

Average liquid water thicknesses in the (a) cathode channel, (b) anode channel, (c) cathode GDL under the channel, (d) anode GDL under the channel, (e) cathode GDL under the rib, and (f) anode GDL under the rib when the cathode inlet RH is 100%

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Figure 11

Average liquid saturation in (a) the GDL under the rib and (b) the GDL under the channel

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Figure 12

Liquid saturation in the GDL. (a) The study of Pasaogullari and Wang (9) models the liquid saturation in the GDL under the channel. (b) The study of Natarajan and Nguyen (10) models the liquid saturation in the GDL under the channel and under the rib.

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Figure 13

Relative humidity distribution in the (a) cathode channel and (b) anode channel. Temperature distribution in the (a) cathode channel and (b) anode channel when the cathode inlet RH is 50%.

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Figure 14

Relative humidity distribution in the (a) cathode channel and (b) anode channel. Temperature distribution in (a) cathode channel and (b) anode channel when the cathode inlet RH is 100%.

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Figure 15

Step response of average liquid water thickness in the (a) cathode channel, (b) anode channel, (c) cathode GDL under the channel, (d) anode GDL under the channel, (e) cathode GDL under the rib, and (f) anode GDL under the rib when the cathode inlet RH is 100%

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Figure 16

Step response of relative humidity in the (a) cathode channel and (b) anode channel when the cathode inlet RH is 100%

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Figure 17

Step response of relative humidity in the (a) cathode channel and (b) anode channel when the cathode inlet RH is 50%

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