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Research Papers

Effect of the Membrane Thermal Conductivity on the Performance of a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell

[+] Author and Article Information
A. Iranzo

AICIA, Thermal Engineering Group,
School of Engineering,
University of Sevilla,
Camino de los Descubrimientos s/n,
Sevilla 41092, Spain
e-mail: airanzo@etsi.us.es

A. Salva, E. Tapia

AICIA, Thermal Engineering Group,
School of Engineering,
University of Sevilla,
Camino de los Descubrimientos s/n,
Sevilla 41092, Spain

F. Rosa

AICIA, Thermal Engineering Group,
Energy Engineering Department,
School of Engineering,
University of Sevilla,
Camino de los Descubrimientos s/n,
Sevilla 41092, Spain

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF FUEL CELL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received July 27, 2012; final manuscript received January 16, 2014; published online January 30, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Abel Hernandez-Guerrero.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 11(3), 031007 (Jan 30, 2014) (7 pages) Paper No: FC-12-1067; doi: 10.1115/1.4026522 History: Received July 27, 2012; Revised January 16, 2014

The thermal conductivity of the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) of fuel cells is an important property affecting the overall cell performance. However, very few studies or fuel cell models include the dependence of this property on temperature and humidification conditions. In addition, no detailed studies have been reported for the quantitative understanding of how this property influences important aspects of the cell such as performance, water management, and membrane durability. This work presents results of a sensibility study performed for different membrane thermal conductivities, analyzing the influence of this parameter on the main cell response variables. The work has been performed with the aid of a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model developed for a 50 cm2 fuel cell with serpentine flow field bipolar plates, previously validated against experimental measurements. The results show to what extent the cell performance, water management, and durability issues such as MEA temperature gradients are influenced by the membrane thermal conductivity, especially at high current densities, leading up to a 50% increase in the cell electric power at 1000 mA/cm2 when the thermal conductivity of the membrane is set to 0.26 W/(m K) instead of to the base value of 0.13 W/(m K).

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Polarization curves obtained for the membrane thermal conductivities analyzed

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Fig. 2

Power curves obtained for the membrane thermal conductivities analyzed

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Fig. 3

Water content distribution at the MEA midplane at 1000 mA/cm2. Top: k = 0.13 W/(m K). Middle: k = 0.18 W/(m K). Bottom: k = 0.26 W/(m K).

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Fig. 4

Water saturation s (liquid water volume fraction) distribution at the cathode GDL-CL interface at 1000 mA/cm2. Top: k = 0.13 W/(m K). Middle: k = 0.18 W/(m K). Bottom: k = 0.26 W/(m K).

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Fig. 5

Temperature distribution at the MEA midplane at 1000 mA/cm2. Top: k = 0.13 W/(m K). Middle: k = 0.18 W/(m K). Bottom: k = 0.26 W/(m K).

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Fig. 6

Current density distribution at the MEA midplane at 1000 mA/cm2. Top: k = 0.13 W/(m K). Middle: k = 0.18 W/(m K). Bottom: k = 0.26 W/(m K).

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