Simplified models for predicting the onset of liquid water droplet instability at the gas diffusion layer/gas flow channel interface

Ken S. Chen, Michael A. Hickner, David R. Noble

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Simplified models that are based on macroscopic force balances and droplet-geometry approximations are presented for predicting the onset of instability leading to removal of water droplets at the gas diffusion layer (GDL)/gas flow channel (GFC) interface. Visualization experiments are carried out to observe the formation, growth, and removal or instability of the water droplets at the GDL/GFC interface of a simulated polymer electrolyte fuel cell cathode. Droplet-instability diagrams or 'windows' computed by the simplified models are compared with those measured experimentally, and good agreement is obtained. Two-dimensional flow simulations employing the finite element method coupled with an arbitrary Lagrangian-Eulerian formulation for determining the liquid/gas interface position are also performed to assess the simplified cylindrical-droplet model. Necessary conditions for preventing fully grown droplets from lodging in the flow channel are derived using the simplified models. It is found that droplet removal can be enhanced by increasing flow channel length or mean gas flow velocity, decreasing channel height or contact angle hysteresis, or making the GDL/GFC interface more hydrophobic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1113-1132
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Energy Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 10 2005


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology

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