Research Papers

Numerical Modeling and Experimental Analysis of Air-Droplet Interaction in the Channel of a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell

[+] Author and Article Information
Angelo Esposito1

Dipartimento di Ingegneria Meccanica, Universitá degli Studi di Salerno, 84084 Fisciano (SA), Italy; Center for Automotive Research, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43212esposito.24@osu.edu

Aaron Motello, Yann G. Guezennec

Center for Automotive Research, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43212

Cesare Pianese

Dipartimento di Ingegneria Meccanica, Universitá degli Studi di Salerno, 84084 Fisciano (SA), Italy


Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 7(3), 031021 (Mar 17, 2010) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3211104 History: Received July 10, 2009; Revised July 17, 2009; Published March 17, 2010; Online March 17, 2010

An accurate low order model (mean value model) that captures main water transport mechanisms through the components of a PEM fuel cell was developed. Fast simulation time was achieved through a lumped approach in modeling the space-dependent phenomena. Evaporation and capillarity were assumed to be the predominant mechanisms of water flow through the gas diffusion media. The innovative features of the model are not only to simulate the water transport inside the porous media with relative simplicity, but also to simulate the water transport at the interface between the gas diffusion layer and gas flow channel. In order to preserve a light computational burden, the complex air flow-droplet interaction was modeled with several simplifying assumptions, and with the support of measured data. The physics that characterizes the single droplet-air flow interaction was analyzed with an experimental apparatus constructed to study the droplet growth and detachment process. Furthermore, the experimental findings were exploited to feed the numerical model with the missing theoretical information, and empirical submodels to guarantee accuracy. Thanks to the followed fast computational time of the mean value approach, the model is suitable for fuel cell design and optimization, as well as diagnosis and control strategies development studies.

Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

A spherical water droplet on the GDL surface in (a) static and (b) dynamic conditions

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Figure 2

Overhead schematic of experimental apparatus

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Figure 3

Profile schematic of the experimental channel apparatus. This is a transversal section of the channel showed in Fig. 2.

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Figure 4

Picture of the experimental setup

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Figure 5

Simplified PEMFC sketch

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Figure 6

(a) and (b): Control volume for modeling GDL water transport

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Figure 7

2-D droplet model on the GDL surface

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Figure 8

Coalescing process between two droplets (1 and 2) into a bigger droplet (3)

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Figure 9

Droplet height traces recorded for a single operating point batch (see Table 1) with critical sizes marked

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Figure 10

Droplet critical sizes for range of flow velocities

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Figure 11

Comparison with numerical results of Nam and Kaviany (6). Water flows from left to right toward the interface with the air channel.

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Figure 12

MVM sensitiveness to the current density. (a) Water saturation in the subvolumes and (b) interface WDO, Ndrops, ucap, and the SMD of droplets.

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Figure 13

Change in interface water occupation, number of droplets, and the SMD of droplets with stoichiometric ratio

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Figure 14

Influence of the initial droplet diameter on the water occupation, number of droplets, and SMD

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Figure 15

Influence of the GDL contact angle on the WDO, number of droplets, and SMD

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Figure 16

Influence of the fuel cell temperature on the variables of the interface

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Figure 17

(a), (b), and (c): Influence of the anode and cathode humidity on the droplet population evolving on the surface of the cathode GDL




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