AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY ON FLOW FIELDS IN A PEM FUEL
Dept of Chemical Engg, G V P College of Engineering, Visakhapatnam-48.
V. Dharma Rao , B.Govinda Rao
Dept of Mechanical Engg, G V P College of Engineering, Visakhapatnam-48.
Dept of Chemical Engineering, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam-3.
Fuel Cell and Renewable Energy, BHEL R&D, Hyderabad.
• A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy converter that converts
chemical energy of fuel directly into DC electricity.
• Fuel cells resemble batteries in many ways, but in contrast to
them they do not store the chemical energy, fuel has to be
continuously provided to the cell to maintain the power output.
Typically, a process of electricity generation
1.Combustion of fuel converts chemical energy of fuel into heat,
2.This heat is then used to boil water and generate steam,
3. Steam is used to run a turbine in a process that converts
thermal energy into mechanical energy, and finally
4. Mechanical energy is used to run a generator that generates
Typical Characteristics of Fuel Cells
(30 – 50%)
KOH in H20
50 -200 OC
150 – 200 OC
retained in a
600 - 700 OC
700 – 1000 OC 50 – 100 OC
CO3OGraphite-based Stainlees Steel Ceramic
H2, CO, CH4
1.5 - 2.6
3.8 - 6.5
50 - 60%
55 - 65%
55 - 65%
50 - 60%
30 - 40%
30 – 60 OC
Advantages of PEM fuel cells:
Low operating temperature (<100oC)
High power density
Quick startup and
Zero emissions, which leads directly to a reduction
of air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Functions of components
Enables hydrogen protons to travel
from the anode to the cathode.
Persulfonic acid membrane
(Nafion 112, 115, 117)
Breaks the fuel into protons and
electrons. The protons combine with
the oxidant to form water at the fuel
cell cathode. The electrons travel to the
Allows fuel/oxidant to travel through
the porous layer, while
Carbon cloth or Toray
Flow field plate
Distributes the fuel and oxidant
to the gas diffusion layer
Graphite, stainless steel
Prevent fuel leakage, and helps to
distribute pressure evenly
Holds stack layers in place
Stainless steel, graphite,
The experimental set up contains a single PEM fuel cell with
active surface area 9.6 9.8 cm.
The membrane electrode assembly (MEA) consists of
Nafion 1135 (88 µm)
Gas diffusion layers (400 µm)
• Catalyst used is carbon supported platinum
• Catalyst ink is applied as a layer on the GDL
• The catalyst loading on the anode-side is 0.15 mg/cm2
with a thickness of catalyst layer of 20 µm
• A catalyst loading of 0.3mg/cm2 is used on the cathodeside with a thickness of catalyst layer of 40 µm
The MEA is placed between two graphite plates and is pressed
between gold-coated copper plates.
Different Parameters studied
Effect of Channel geometry
Effect of Stoichiometry
Schematic diagram of 4-serpentine flow channel
Dimensions of the computational domain
Anode Catalyst-layer thickness
Cathode Catalyst-layer thickness
All the components are meshed and assembled in GAMBIT.
As the oxygen flow rate is increased, there is an increase in the cell
voltage due to maintaining sufficient oxygen on the cathode catalyst
surface and carryover of water by oxygen.
When the flow rate is doubled (0.2 to 0.4 lpm) a 10% increase is
found in power output (17.7 to 19.4W).
Under identical operating conditions, at 25A current the fuel cell
gives the highest voltage with 4-serpentine flow field plates (0.6V).
The interdigitated and dual-inlet-single-outlet flow geometries occupy
the second and third positions (0.48 and 0.4V) respectively in the
The 4-serpentine and dual inlet and single outlet flow channels show
improvement in overall performance and power with an increase in
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