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Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell parametric study via mathematical modeling and numerical simulation.

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posted on 22.05.2021, 17:37 by Rihab Jaralla
In the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell study, numerical analysis of complex and coupled multi-disciplinary processes involving the subjects of fluid dynamics, heat transfer, mass transport, and electrochemistry has been attempted over the past few decades. However, many resulting models are, in spite of fancier functionalities such as three-dimensionality, too complex to implement on account of the digital hardware requirement as well as computation time consumption. On the other hand, three-dimensional analytical models reported in literature look much simple, but they are embedded by a number of fairly unrealistic assumptions and, hence, lead to significantly weakened usability. In this thesis, a set of detailed two-dimensional non-isothermal computational models for PEM fuel cells in x-y and y-z planes are developed, which aims at the equivalency with the 3D PEM fuel cell model and, moreover, gains more insights with significantly reduced computational cost. The complete model consisting of the equations of continuity, momentum, energy, species concentrations, and electric potentials in different regions of a PEM fuel cell are numerically solved using the finite element method implemented into a commercial CFD (COMSOL) code. A comprehensive comparison with the experimental data has been performed to validate the 2D models developed in this study. On the basis of simulations of various flow and transport phenomena in an operational PEMFC, a systematic parametric study is conducted using the present developed PEM fuel cell models. A number of operating and design parameters are examined, including the operating pressure, ambient temperature, relative humidity, the porosity of the gas diffusion layer (GDL), the effective porosity of catalyst layer (CL), the porosity of membrane (M), the proton conductivity and the air inlet velocity at cathode side. The obtained results of this study revelaed that the membrane porosity, and air inlet velocity have considerable effects on the water content in the membrane, thus it is essential to select the proper values of these parameters to improve water management in the cell and avoid dehydration the membrane or flooding the electrode. Also, it is found that increasing air velocity at the inlet of the cathode gas channel has a significant effect on the temperature distribution in PEM fuel cell, as the temperature a noticeably dropped with higher inlet air velocity. The numerically results also found that with higher porosities of gas diffusion layers (GDLs) and catalyst layers (CLs), the performance of PEM fuel cell improved. In addition, it found that a higher performance can be achieved when fuel cell operated with reasonably higher operating temperature, operating pressure, proton conductivity and ensuring a full hydration of the reactants. The outcome of this study demonstrates that the present developed PEM fuel cell models can serve as a useful tool for understanding of transport and electrochemical phenomena in PEM fuel cell as well as for optimization of cell design and operating conditions.





Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type