Journal of Applied Electrochemistry

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 557–565 | Cite as

Influence of rib spacing in proton-exchange membrane electrode assemblies

  • A. C. West
  • T. F. Fuller
Article

Abstract

A two-dimensional design analysis of a membrane-electrode assembly for a proton-exchange membrane fuel cell is presented. Specifically, the ribs of the bipolar plates restrict the access of fuel and oxidant gases to the catalyst layer. The expected change in cell performance that results from the partial blocking of the substrate layer is studied by numerical simulation of the oxygen electrode and the membrane separator. The effects of rib sizing and the thickness of the gas-diffusion electrode on the current and water distributions within the cell are presented. For all of the cases considered, the two-dimensional effect only slightly alters the half-cell potential for a given applied current but has a significant influence on water management.

Concentrated solution theory with variable transport properties is used in the membrane electrolyte to solve for the electrical potential and local water content. The Stefan-Maxwell equations are used in the gas-diffusion electrode to determine the local mole fractions of nitrogen, oxygen and water vapour.

A control-volume formulation is used for the resolution of the coupled nonlinear differential equations. One advantage of the control-volume approach over finite-difference methods is the relative ease in which internal boundary points in fuel-cell and battery models are handled. This and other advantages are briefly discussed.

List of symbols

a

specific interfacial area (m−1)

Ak

kinetic parameter defined by Equation 19 (kA m−2)

c

concentration (mol m−3)

di,ke

coefficient in Equation 14

D

diffusion coefficient (m2s−1)

χi,ke

coefficient in Equation 14

F

Faraday's constant (96 487 C equiv−1)

h

mesh spacing (m)

i

current density in electrolyte (A m−2)

io

exchange current density (A m−2)

I

superficial current density (Am−2)

Lm

thickness of membrane (m)

Ls

thickness of substrate (m)

Ly

thickness of rib (m)

M

molecular weight (gmol−1)

Ni

flux of species i (mol M−2 s−1)

n

number of electrons transferred

p

pressure (Pa)

R

universal gas constant (Jmol-1 K−1)

Rh

relative humidity

Ri

reaction state of species i (mol m−3 s−1)

si

stoichiometric coefficient

T

temperature (K)

V

cell potential (V)

x

molar fraction of gas, and distance normal to membrane face (m)

y

distance (m)

Greek symbols

α

diffusion coefficient (J mol2 m−1 s−1)

αe

weighting factor

βe

weighting factor

Δx

element size in x-direction (m)

Δy

element size in y-direction (m)

Φ

potential of electrolyte (V)

ɛ

porosity or numerical error conductivity of electrolyte (Sm−1)

λ

dimensionless water concentration in membrane (moles water/mole sulfonate group)

ϱ

membrane density (kgm−3)

σAB

characteristic length (m)

ωO

mass fraction of water ΩAB diffusion collision integral

ξ

transport number of water

μ

chemical potential, J mol−1

Subscripts

e

east face

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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. West
    • 1
  • T. F. Fuller
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering, Materials Science, and Mining EngineeringColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.International Fuel CellsSouth WindsorUSA

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