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PEM Fuel Cell Design, Engineering,
Hydrogen
CollectorPlate

Gaschannel
Modeling and Diagnostic Issues
Gasdiffuser
Anodecatalyst
Air M embrane
Cathodecatalyst
Gasdiffuser
y
Gaschannel

x CollectorPlate
z

0.85
0.76
0.67

Frano Barbir
0.58
0.49
0.41
0.32
0 0.23

2
X (cm

Current Density (A/cm2)

4
)

6 0.5

Director of Fuel Cell Technology and Chief Scientist
-1
8 0
1 Z (mm)

Proton Energy Systems
50 Inwood Road, Rocky Hill, CT 06067
e-mail: fbarbir@protonenergy.com
www.protonenergy.com

NSF Workshop on Engineering Fundamentals of Low-Temperature
PEM Fuel Cells, Arlington, VA, November 14-15, 2001
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Fuel cell development process
requirements Knowledge:
materials
processes
interactions
design

material characterization
fabricate quality control

test

no
Does it work?

yes
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Role of requirements Knowledge:
materials
modeling and processes
interactions
diagnostics in design
fuel cell
development model

process Should
it work?

fabricate

test

diagnostics
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Major components end plate
bus plate
bi-polar collector plates

Membrane
Catalyst
MEA Catalyst support
Catalyst layer
Gas diffusion layer
Gaskets/frames
Bi-polar Flow field
plate Separator/connector tie rod

Bus plates/terminals
End plates
Clamping mechanism
Fluid connections
Manifolds
Cooling plates/arrangements
Humidification section (optional)
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Stack design/engineering issues
Uniform distribution of reactants to each cell
Uniform distribution of reactants inside each cell
Uniform temperature distribution in each cell
Minimal resistive losses
• good electrical contacts
• selection of materials
Cell Resistance and Performance:
PEM Thickness Effects

1.0
• Electro-osmotic
Increasing drag removes
Membrane
)

0.8
water from the
2
HF RESISTANCE (ohm cm

Thickness
or CELL VOLTAGE (V)

anode side.
0.6 With thicker
(Neat membranes,
0.4
Oxygen back diffusion
Cathodes)
of water is
difficult - the
0.2
anode side
loses water
0.0
Fg 3, TF69,109,74,117 Ox's
content.
0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0
2
CURRENT DENSITY (A/cm )

Materials Science and Technology Division
PEFC Overview
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Cell resistance

ex-situ
20-30 mΩcm2

electronic

cell resistance
in-situ
(current interrupt)

100-150 mΩcm2

ionic
40-60 mΩcm2
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Electronic resistance F
measurement
press
(ex-situ) I

gold plate

backing
mV
sample
A
backing

gold plate

R=A V (mΩcm²)
I
press

F
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Resistance is a function of clamping force

contact resistance
resistance

force
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Cell resistance
bulk
<1 mΩcm2
ex-situ
contact
20-30 mΩcm2

electronic

cell resistance
in-situ
(current interrupt)

100-150 mΩcm2

ionic
40-60 mΩcm2
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Resistance is a function of clamping force

example of pressure
contact resistance
distribution
resistance

force
force
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Stack design/engineering issues
Uniform distribution of reactants to each cell
Uniform distribution of reactants inside each cell
Uniform temperature distribution in each cell
Minimal resistive losses
• good electrical contacts
• selection of materials
Account for thermal expansion
No crossover or overboard leaks
Minimum pressure drop (reactant gases and coolant)
No water accumulation pockets
Design for manufacture/design for assembly
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Difference between single cell and stack

Flow distribution
Active area
Temperature control (heating/cooling)
Temperature distribution
Compression/electrical contacts
Leak paths
Adjacent cell interference
Modeling:
Parameters and Processes (partial list)
Membrane
- Water Content
- Ionic Conductivity
- Water Diffusivity
- Electro-osmotic Drag
- Hydraulic Permeability

Electro-catalyst
- Exchange Current Density
- Tafel Slope
- Roughness Factor
Catalyst Layer
Air - Ionic Conductivity
- Electronic Conductivity
H2 O2 - Gas Permeability
- Reactant Solubility
- Capacitance

Gas Diffusion Layer
- Gas Diffusivity
- Porosity
- Tortuosity
- Electronic Conductivy
- Gas Composition
Fluid flow
Flow-Fields Heat transfer
- Convection
Cell Parameters -Two-Phase Flow

Overall: Mass Balance - Heat Balance
Materials Science and Technology Division
PEFC Overview
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Modeling as a design tool

A model is approximation of the real world.

Every model is wrong!

Any model is as good as the assumptions it is
built upon are valid!
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Assumptions used in fuel cell modeling

Concentration at the boundary is known
Local current density is known
Isothermal conditions
Heat transfer by conduction in the gas phase in negligible
Pressure is constant
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Modeling
Collector Plate
domain
Hydrogen Gas channel
Gas diffuser
Anode catalyst
Air Membrane
Cathode catalyst
Gas diffuser
y
Gas channel

Different z
x Collector Plate

models
1-D (y) One phase
2-D (x-y or z-y) Two phase models
2 2-D (x-y and z-y)
3-D models (x-y-z)
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Truths and myths about
experimental and modeling work

When someone presents the modeling results no one
trusts those except the presenter/person who did the
modeling.

When someone presents the experimental results
everyone trusts those except the presenter/person
who performed the experiment.
Oxygen molar fraction
conventional flow field vs. interdigitated flow field
Oxygen mole fraction
0.1680
0.1428
0.1176
0.0924
0.0672
0.0420

1000
Y (X10 mm)

500 0
100
-3

200
0 300
1
400 - cm)
0.5 02
500 x1
X(
Z( 0 600
mm
)
-0.5 700
0.1680
800
-1 0.1260
0.0840
0.0420

In
1

0
Y (mm)

0.5

1

0
2
2 )
cm
X(
1.5

Z( 3
1
m m)
0.5

4
0
Oxygen molar fraction contours
across x-y direction
1 0.110 0.099 0.089 Catalyst
0.130 0.120 0.110
0.9 0.160 Diffuser
0.140
0.8 0.170 0.150
0.18 0.16
0 0
0.7

0.6 0.17
Y (mm)

0.1 0
0.5 90
0.2 0.1
00 80 Gas
0.4 channel
0.3

0.2

0.190
0.1

across y-z direction
0.200

0.180
0
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
X (cm)

1 0.106 catalyst
68 87
0.0 0.0 gas0.1
0.9 24
0.1 diffuser
0.1
3
0.8
6 0.14
0.10 0.161 0.1
0.7
0.180
0.124
0.6
Y(mm)

0.5

0.4 Collector plate gas
channel
0.3

0.2

0.1

0
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1
Z(mm)
Current density distribution

0 .8 5
0 .7 6
0 .6 7
0 .5 8
0 .4 9
0 .4 1
0 0 .3 2
0 .2 3

2

Current Density (A/cm )
X

2
4
(c
m
)

6 0 .5

-1
8 0
) Collector Plate
1 Z (m m
Hydrogen Gas channel
Gas diffuser
Anodecatalyst
Air Membrane
Cathodecatalyst
Gas diffuser
y
Gas channel

x Collector Plate
z
Temperature profiles across the fuel cell

o
Temperature ( C)
92.70
91.27
89.85
88.42
86.99
85.57
84.14
82.71

0
Temperature (oC)

90 2

85 4
x
94
Catalyst
0 6
1 92
y 2 8
90 Membrane

Temperature (Co)
Diffuser
88
Cathode gas channel
Diffuser Anode gas channel
86

84

Near inlet
82 Middle of channel
Near exit

80
0 0.5 1 1.5 2
Y(mm)
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Diagnostics as a design tool requirements Knowledge:
materials
processes
interactions
design

ƒ Polarization curve model

ƒ Current interrupt Should
it work?

ƒ AC impedance
fabricate

test

ƒ Pressure drop diagnostics

ƒ Polarization curve hysteresis
ƒ Comparative polarization curves
ƒ Current density mapping
Current density mapping

M. Potter, S.Shaw, P. Adcock, and J. McGuirk, Loughborough University,
Computer Modelling of Solid Polymer Fuel Cells, 1998
Current density
mapping

S.J.C. Cleghorn, C.R. Derouin, M.S. Wilson,
and S. Gottesfeld, A Printed Circuit Board
Approach to Measuring Current Distribution in
a Fuel Cell, J. Appl. Electrochem., 1997
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Diagnostics as a design tool

ƒ Polarization curve
ƒ Current interrupt
ƒ AC impedance
ƒ Pressure drop
ƒ Polarization curve hysteresis
ƒ Comparative polarization curves
ƒ Current density mapping
ƒ Temperature mapping
ƒ Flow visualization
ƒ Neutron imaging
ƒ Post-mortem analyses
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Fuel Cell R&D Opportunities

Development of new membrane material
Less expensive
Retains water or does not rely on water for proton
conductance

Development of new (less expensive) catalyst
material
Effect of catalyst layer structure on fuel cell
performance
Engineering of catalyst layer structure
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Fuel Cell R&D Opportunities – cont. (2)

Investigation of surface quality and interface
conductivity
Better understanding of thermal effects inside the
fuel cell
temperature distribution
phase change

Design of fuel cell as a heat exchanger
Design of a humidifier/heat exchanger
Investigation of 2-phase flow characteristics
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Fuel Cell R&D Opportunities – cont. (3)

Understanding of fuel cell degradation/aging/failure
Development of methods for accelerated life-testing
Development of diagnostic methods and tools
Development of standardized methods for
characterization of fuel cell materials/subcomponents
(pre-installation & post mortem)
Development of advanced control algorithms
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Acknowledgment

My thanks to Dr. Hongtan Liu, Department of
Mechanical Engineering, University of Miami
for letting me use his slides for this presentation.
I also used the slides or materials from:
• Mahlon Wilson, Los Alamos National Laboratory,
• Simon Cleghorn, W.L.Gore&Assoc., (formerly with LANL)
• Marcus Potter, University of Loughborough.