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A Comparison Study into Low Leak Rate Buoyant Gas Dispersion in a Small Fuel Cell Enclosure Using Plain and Louvre Vent Passive Ventilation Schemes


The development of a ‘Hydrogen Economy’ will see hydrogen fuel cells used in transportation and the generation of power for buildings as part of a decentralised grid, with low power units used in domestic and commercial environmental, situations. Low power fuel cells will be housed in small protective enclosures, which must be ventilated to prevent a build-up of hydrogen gas, produced during normal fuel cell operation or a supply pipework leak. Hydrogen’s flammable range (4-75%) is a significant safety concern. With poor enclosure ventilation, a low-level leak (below 10 lpm) could quickly create a flammable mixture with potential for an explosion. Mechanical ventilation is effective at managing enclosure hydrogen concentrations, but drains fuel cell power and is vulnerable to failure. In many applications (e.g. low power and remote installation) this is undesirable and reliable passive ventilation systems are preferred. Passive ventilation depends upon buoyancy driven flow, with the size and shape of ventilation openings critical for producing predictable flows and maintaining low buoyant gas concentrations. Environmentally installed units use louvre vents to protect the fuel cell, but the performance of these vents compared to plain vertical vents is not clear. Comparison small enclosure tests of ‘same opening area’ louvre and plain vents, with leak rates from 1 to 10 lpm, were conducted. A displacement ventilation arrangement was installed on the test enclosure with upper and lower opposing openings. Helium gas was released from a 4mm nozzle at the base of the enclosure to simulate a hydrogen leak. The tests determined that louvre vents increased average enclosure hydrogen concentrations by approximately 10% across the leak range tested, but regulated the flow. The test data was used in a SolidWorks CFD simulation model validation exercise. The model provided a good qualitative representation of the flow behaviour but under predicted average concentrations.

Related subjects: Safety
Countries: United Kingdom

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A comparison study into low leak rate buoyant gas dispersion in a small fuel cell enclosure using plain and louvre vent passive ventilation schemes

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