Research Papers

Multiphysics Modeling of Assembly Pressure Effects on Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell Performance

[+] Author and Article Information
Y. Zhou, G. Lin, A. J. Shih

Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2125

S. J. Hu1

Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2125jackhu@umich.edu


Corresponding author.

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 6(4), 041005 (Aug 11, 2009) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3081426 History: Received June 06, 2007; Revised August 26, 2008; Published August 11, 2009

The clamping pressure used in assembling a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack can have significant effects on the overall cell performance. The pressure causes stack deformation, particularly in the gas diffusion layer (GDL), and impacts gas mass transfer and electrical contact resistance. Existing research for analyzing the assembly pressure effects is mostly experimental. This paper develops a sequential approach to study the pressure effects by combining the mechanical and electrochemical phenomena in fuel cells. The model integrates gas mass transfer analysis based on the deformed GDL geometry and modified parameters with the microscale electrical contact resistance analysis. The modeling results reveal that higher assembly pressure increases cell resistance to gas mass transfer, causes an uneven current density distribution, and reduces electrical contact resistance. These combined effects show that as the assembly pressure increases, the PEM fuel cell power output increases first to a maximum and then decreases over a wide range of pressures. An optimum assembly pressure is observed. The model is validated against published experimental data with good agreements. This study provides a basis for determining the assembly pressure required for optimizing PEM fuel cell performance.

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Schematic of a PEM fuel cell: (a) cross section and (b) computational domain

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Figure 2

Model predicted contour of effective strain at 15 MPa pressure

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Figure 3

(a) Cell geometry before deformation and (b) deformed shapes of GDL under assembly pressures 0.1 MPa, 1 MPa, and 15 MPa, respectively

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Figure 4

Compression ratio and porosity versus assembly pressure

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Figure 5

Assembly pressure effect on PEM fuel cell performance with only mass transfer resistance being considered

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Figure 6

Simulated contact resistance versus assembly pressure

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Figure 7

Polarization curves comparison between the modeling results with the experimental data under different assembly pressures.

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Figure 8

Effect of assembly pressure on overall fuel cell performance: (a) polarization curves at different assembly pressures and (b) current density versus assembly pressure at different cell voltages

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Figure 9

Contours of the current density at 0.58 V cell voltage and assembly pressures of (a) 0.6 MPa and (b) 15 MPa

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Figure 10

O2 mass faction in GDL at channel outlet at assembly pressures (a) 0.6 MPa and (b) 15 MPa



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