Numerical Simulation of a High Current Density PEM Fuel Cell 2020-24-0016
The ever-increasing quest for sustainable mobility is pushing the automotive sector towards electric-based technologies, allowing the reduction of localized emission sources in highly populated urban areas. Among the many possible solutions, Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC) have the potential to de-carbonise the automotive sector without the range anxiety of present and future batteries. The interaction between physical and chemical processes in PEMFC is crucial to their maximum attainable efficiency, albeit the complexity of such interplay still limits a complete understanding of the governing processes.
In this paper a canonical PEMFC from literature is simulated using 3D-CFD, and results are compared against experiments. A Eulerian multi-phase/multi-physics non-isothermal framework is used to account for both fluid (gas channels, porous gas diffusion layers) and solid (bi-polar plates, membrane), as well as for electrochemical and sorption reactions. The model is also able to account for the heat balance and for the liquid water formation at cathode catalyst layer, as well as to predict the water transport and the membrane hydration state fundamental for high-efficiency operation. Simulations are compared with measurements and polarization curves are analysed for two membrane thicknesses and rib/channel spacing.
The study presents the investigation possibilities given by 3D-CFD in the field of PEMFC and how this can be used to design high efficiency fuel cells. The presented numeric analysis shows how the virtual design of high-efficiency PEMFC for the automotive sector can be guided by simulations amongst multiple degrees of freedom, thus aiding the development of innovative PEMFC.