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Numerical investigation of gas channel shape effect on proton exchange membrane fuel cell performance


A three-dimensional, single-phase model of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell with both the gas distribution flow channels and the membrane–electrode assembly has been developed. A single set of conservation equations which are valid for the flow channels, gas-diffusion electrodes, catalyst layers, and the membrane region is developed and numerically solved using a finite volume-based computational fluid dynamics (CFD) technique. In this research, some parameters such as oxygen consumption, water production, temperature distribution, ohmic losses, anode water activity, cathode over potential and the fuel cell performance for straight single cell were investigated in more detail. The numerical simulations reveal that these important operating parameters are highly dependent on each other and the fuel cell efficiency is affected by the kind of species distribution. So for especial uses in desirable voltages, for preventing the unwilling losses, these numerical results can be useful. The important goal of this research is the investigation of serpentine channel performance compared with the conventional straight channels, which is highlighted in the results section with more details. Finally, the numerical results of proposed CFD model have been compared with the published experimental data that represent good agreement.

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Surface area of electrode–membrane assembly (m2)

A ch :

Channel cross-section (m2)


Local concentration of hydrogen (mol m−3)


Local concentration of oxygen (mol m−3)

F :

Faraday constant (C mol−1)

M :

Molecular weight (g mol−1)

M m :

Dry membrane weight (kg)

R an :

Exchange current density of anode (A m−3)

R cat :

Exchange current density of cathode (A m−3)

S :

Sink source

u :

Velocity in x direction (m s−1)

v :

Velocity in y direction (m s−1)

w :

Velocity in z direction (m s−1)

\(\eta\) :

Surface over potential (V)

σmem :

Electrical conductivity of membrane (S m−1)

σsol :

Electrical conductivity of electrode (S m−1)

αan :

Anode charge transport coefficient

αcat :

Cathode charge transport coefficient


Water content of membrane




Dynamic viscosity (kg s m−2)


Density (kg m−3)


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Correspondence to Sajad Rezazadeh.

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Technical Editor: Francisco Ricardo Cunha.

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Rezazadeh, S., Ahmadi, N. Numerical investigation of gas channel shape effect on proton exchange membrane fuel cell performance. J Braz. Soc. Mech. Sci. Eng. 37, 789–802 (2015).

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  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Fuel cell performance
  • Membrane
  • PEM fuel cells
  • Relative humidity