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Research Papers

Distribution Study of Species and Current Density During Oxygen Starvation

[+] Author and Article Information
Mathias Gerard, Jean-Philippe Poirot-Crouvezier

DRT/LITEN/DTH/LPAC, Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA), 38000 Grenoble, France

Daniel Hissel, Marie-Cecile Pera

FEMTO-ST ENISYS/FCLAB Laboratory, University of Franche-Comte, 90010 Belfort, France

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 7(5), 051010 (Jul 16, 2010) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4001018 History: Received July 21, 2009; Revised July 23, 2009; Published July 16, 2010; Online July 16, 2010

In a fuel cell system the stack is strongly coupled with the main system components, among which the compressor is one of the most important. Malfunction of this auxiliary device (delay during peak power, low stoichiometry operation, emergency stop, etc.) is directly responsible for bad oxygen distribution in the cathode (substoichiometry reactants feeding). This phenomenon is usually called oxygen starvation. In this study we want to identify the consequences of oxygen starvation on the performance and durability of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell stacks, and more particularly, on the current distribution along the cell. The oxygen concentration decreases along the channel and induces a change in the local electrochemical response; it means that the local current density on the cell is redistributed on the surface. This bad distribution of reactive gas (in a transient time or long time) decreases the performance but may also have an effect on cathode degradation such as carbon corrosion and platinum dissolution/oxidation. The current distribution along the cell is studied by two approaches (modeling and experiments). The 3D model using serpentine bipolar plate meshing is adapted to dynamically compute for the catalyst layer local conditions (local current, temperature, gases partial pressure, and water activity). It is able to reproduce the conditions of low or high oxygen concentration in the cathode side. The experiments are performed with a bi-cell stack developed by CEA with specific design for the magnetic sensors (the local current is computed by measuring the local induced magnetic field and using the Maxwell equations).

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Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Stack model general structure

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Figure 2

GDL and membrane architecture coupling in the anode and cathode channels and gas distributors

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Figure 3

Bipolar plate anode and cathode and the meshing used for simulation

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Figure 4

Specific fuel cell stack developed to measure the current density by the magnetic field sensors

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Figure 5

Simulation 1: cell potential collapse during an air stoichiometry step. The nominal current is 0.8 A cm−2.

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Figure 6

Oxygen molar fraction evolution in the cathode channels during simulation 1

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Figure 7

Current density evolution (A m−2) on the GDL during simulation 1

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Figure 8

Cathode temperature evolution (K) on the GDL during simulation 1

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Figure 9

Relative humidity in the cathode (%) on the GDL during simulation 1

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Figure 10

Simulation 2: cell potential evolution during air stoichiometry step. The nominal current is 0.1 A cm−2.

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Figure 11

Current density evolution (A m−2) on the GDL during simulation 2

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Figure 12

Cathode temperature evolution (K) on the GDL during simulation 2

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