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Characteristics of PEMFC operation in ambient- and low-pressure environment considering the fuel cell humidification

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This paper summarizes experimental results of an air-fed polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell system HyPM XR 12 (Hydrogenics Corp.) considering fuel cell temperature, stoichiometry, and load requirement variations at ambient and low-pressure operation. The experimental work realized at a low-pressure test facility designed and assembled by the German Aerospace Center, Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics is based on an experimental design. The experimental results confirm reduced fields of fuel cell operation as well as a decreased gross stack performance and efficiency at low operating pressures (950 mbar ≥ p ≥ 600 mbar) for the defined fuel cell temperature, stoichiometry, and load requirement. In addition, indexes of the operating parameters are introduced, characterizing the fuel cell operation with regard to the gross stack performance and efficiency at ambient and low-pressure levels. The discussion of the results considers analyses of fuel cell humidification.

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  1. Reference: Cruise (700 mbar) and ground operation (1,000 mbar). Pressure in emergency operation down to 200 mbar (cp. cabin decompression) [9].

  2. The evaluation of the fuel cell humidification for the measuring points in Tables 5, 6, 7 and 8 is based on the relative humidity rH calculated for the PEMFC parameters examined. The classification “dry” (rh <90 %), “adequate”, (90 % ≤ rh ≤ 110 %) and “flooded” (rh >110 %) is introduced.

  3. Tables 6, 7 and 8 consider measuring points characterized by the operating pressure p_cathode_in ≈700 or 950 mbar.


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The research work presented in this paper is part of the Cluster „Kabinentechnologie und Innovative Brennstoffzelle“(Project Number: 03CL03D) supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The authors gratefully acknowledge the support received.

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Correspondence to C. Werner.



Main effects and interactions are considered in the design of experiments. Main effects of the first (linear), the second (quadratic), the third (cubic), and the fourth (biquadratic) orders are those summands that include only one input variable in the first to fourth order. First-order interactions include products of two input variables; second order interactions include products of three input variables, and so on. Non-linear effects are those products, which include at least one input variable quadratically. The presented model considers every summand up to the third order as well as biquadratic main effects and the third-degree interactions. The remaining nonlinear interactions belonging to the fourth order are excluded from the model. The quadruplets shown in Tables 9 and 10 are the exponents of the operating parameters λ, t, p, and I in the model function

$$Y = \mathop \sum \limits_{j = 1}^{n} \beta_{j} \cdot \lambda^{j1} \cdot t^{j2} \cdot p^{j3} \cdot I^{j4}$$

where Y represents the target variable, β j the model coefficients, and j 1j 4 the exponents shown in Tables 9 and 10. For example, the effect 1200 (cp. Table 10, 1st line, 4th column) is written in the model function as

$$Y = \beta_{j} \cdot \lambda^{1} \cdot t^{2} \cdot p^{0} \cdot I^{0} = \beta_{j} \cdot \lambda ^{1} \cdot t^{2}$$

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Werner, C., Gores, F., Busemeyer, L. et al. Characteristics of PEMFC operation in ambient- and low-pressure environment considering the fuel cell humidification. CEAS Aeronaut J 6, 229–243 (2015).

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