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Three-dimensional numerical simulation of straight channel PEM fuel cells


The need to model three-dimensional flow in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells is discussed by developing an integrated flow and current density model to predict current density distributions in two dimensions on the membrane in a straight channel PEM fuel cell. The geometrical model includes diffusion layers on both the anode and cathode sides and the numerical model solves the same primary flow related variables in the main flow channel and the diffusion layer. A control volume approach is used and source terms for transport equations are presented to facilitate their incorporation in commercial flow solvers. Predictions reveal that the inclusion of a diffusion layer creates a lower and more uniform current density compared to cases without diffusion layers. The results also show that the membrane thickness and cell voltage have a significant effect on the axial distribution of the current density and net rate of water transport. The predictions of the water transport between cathode and anode across the width of the flow channel show the delicate balance of diffusion and electroosmosis and their effect on the current distribution along channel.

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Dutta, S., Shimpalee, S. & Van Zee, J. Three-dimensional numerical simulation of straight channel PEM fuel cells. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry 30, 135–146 (2000).

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  • current distribution
  • fuel cell
  • mass transfer
  • PEM