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Research Papers

Investigation of Mechanical Behavior of Membrane in Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells Subject to Dynamic Load Changes

[+] Author and Article Information
A. Verma

Advanced Materials
and Technologies Laboratory,
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Virginia Tech,
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0238

R. Pitchumani

Advanced Materials
and Technologies Laboratory,
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Virginia Tech,
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0238
e-mail: pitchu@vt.edu

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF FUEL CELL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received December 19, 2013; final manuscript received January 15, 2014; published online February 11, 2014. Editor: Nigel M. Sammes.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 11(3), 031009 (Feb 11, 2014) (9 pages) Paper No: FC-13-1125; doi: 10.1115/1.4026551 History: Received December 19, 2013; Revised January 15, 2014

One of the major barriers for polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells to be commercially viable for stationary and transportation applications is the durability of membranes undergoing chemical and mechanical degradation over the period of operation. Toward understanding the effects of operating parameters on membrane durability, this paper presents numerical simulations for a single channel PEM fuel cell undergoing changes in load, by subjecting a unit cell to step changes in voltage. The objective is to elucidate the mechanical response of the membrane, which is subjected to hygral (water) loading and unloading cycles at constant temperature. Detailed three-dimensional (3D) computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations are conducted, taking into account the complex interactions of water transport dynamics and load changes, to accurately capture the water content in the membrane with changes in cell voltage. The water content obtained through CFD simulations is, in turn, used to carry out two-dimensional (2D) finite element (FE) analysis to predict the mechanical response of the membrane undergoing cyclic change in water content, as the operating voltage is cycled. The effects of cyclic changes in cell potential on the stresses induced, amount of plastic strain, and its localization are analyzed for various inlet cathode humidity values for two sections along the length of the fuel cell.

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References

Figures

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Fig. 1

Schematic of a PEM fuel cell showing (a) a three-dimensional view of a single channel and (b) a planar half-section along the z-axis

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Fig. 2

Contours of humidification, RH, at z = 0.01 m, for (a) Ecell = 0.80 V, (b) Ecell = 0.65 V, and (c) Ecell = 0.50 V

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Contours of equivalent plastic strain, ɛeqpl, for RHcin= 0%, at z = 0.01 m, for cycling from (a) Ecell = 0.80 V to (b) Ecell = 0.50 V and back to (c) Ecell = 0.80 V

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Contours of von-Mises stress (equivalent stress), σeq, at z = 0.01 m, for cycling from (a) Ecell = 0.80 V to (b) Ecell = 0.50 V and back to (c) Ecell = 0.80 V

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Fig. 8

Variation in maximum (a) equivalent plastic strain, ɛeqpl, and (b) volume percentage of plastic deformation, Vpl, as a function of change in cell potential, ΔEcell, for various cathode inlet relative humidity, RHcin, at z = 0.01 m

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Fig. 5

Variation in maximum and minimum values of (a) equivalent plastic strain and (b) equivalent stress with the cell voltage, Ecell, at z = 0.09 m

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Fig. 6

Contours of equivalent plastic strain, ɛeqpl, at z = 0.09 m, for cycling from (a) Ecell = 0.80 V to (b) Ecell = 0.50 V and back to (c) Ecell = 0.80 V

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 7

Contours of equivalent plastic strain, ɛeqpl, for RHcin= 25%, at z = 0.01 m, for cycling from (a) Ecell = 0.80 V to (b) Ecell = 0.50 V and back to (c) Ecell = 0.80 V

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 9

Variation in maximum (a) equivalent plastic strain, ɛeqpl, and (b) volume percentage of plastic deformation, Vpl, as a function of ΔEcell, for various RHcin, at z = 0.05 m

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