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Scaling Factors for Channel Width Variations in Tree-like Flow Field Patterns for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells - An Experimental Study


To have a uniform distribution of reactants is an advantage to a fuel cell. We report results for such a distributor with tree-like flow field plates (FFP). Numerical simulations have shown that the width scaling parameters of tree-like patterns in FFPs used in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) reduces the viscous dissipation in the channels. In this study, experimental investigations were conducted on a 2-layer FF plate possessing a tree-like FF pattern which was CNC milled on high-quality graphite. Three FF designs of different width scaling parameters were employed. I–V curves, power curves and impedance spectra were generated at 70%, 60% and 50% relative humidity (25 cm2 active area), and compared to those obtained from a conventional 1-channel serpentine FF. It was found that the FF design, with a width scaling factor of 0.917 in the inlet and 0.925 in the outlet pattern, exhibited the best peak power out of the three designs (only 11% - 0.08 W/cm2 lower than reference serpentine FF). Results showed that a reduction of the viscous dissipation in the flow pattern was not directly linked to a PEMFC performance increase. It was found that water accumulation, together with a slight increase in single PEMFC resistance, were the main reasons for the reduced power density. As further improvements, a reduction of the number of branching generation levels and width scaling factor were recommended.

Funding source: NTNU in Trondheim and the Research Council of Norway through its Centre of Excellence funding scheme with Project No. 262644 (PoreLab)
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Norway ; Poland ; South Africa

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