Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs) have been an area of focus as an alternative for internal combustion engines in the transportation sector. Water and thermal management techniques remain as one of the key roadblocks in PEMFC development. The ability to model two-phase flow and pressure drop in PEMFCs is of significant importance to the performance and optimization of PEMFCs. This work provides a perspective on the numerous factors that affect the two-phase flow in the gas channels and presents a comprehensive pressure drop model through an extensive in situ fuel cell investigation. The study focused on low current density and low temperature operation of the cell, as these conditions present the most challenging scenario for water transport in the PEMFC reactant channels. Tests were conducted using two PEMFCs that were representative of the actual full scale commercial automotive geometry. The design of the flow fields allowed visual access to both cathode and anode sides for correlating the visual observations to the two-phase flow patterns and pressure drop. A total of 198 tests were conducted varying gas diffusion layer (GDL), inlet humidity, current density, and stoichiometry; this generated over 1500 average pressure drop measurements to develop and validate two-phase models. A two-phase 1+1 D modeling scheme is proposed that incorporates an elemental approach and control volume analysis to provide a comprehensive methodology and correlation for predicting two-phase pressure drop in PEMFC conditions. Key considerations, such as condensation within the channel, consumption of reactant gases, water transport across the membrane, and thermal gradients within the fuel cell, are reviewed and their relative importance illustrated. The modeling scheme is shown to predict channel pressure drop with a mean error of 10% over the full range of conditions and with a mean error of 5% for the primary conditions of interest. The model provides a unique and comprehensive basis for developing a fundamental adiabatic two-phase flow pressure drop predictive scheme for PEMFC reactant channels.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Proton exchange membrane fuel cells--Mathematical models; Two-phase flow--Mathematical models; Fluid-structure interaction; Pressure--Measurement
Department, Program, or Center
Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)
See, Evan, "In situ measurement, characterization, and modeling of two-phase pressure drop incorporating local water saturation in PEMFC gas channels" (2013). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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