Two-phase flow and transport of reactants and products in the air cathode of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells is studied analytically and numerically. Single- and two-phase regimes of water distribution and transport are classified by a threshold current density corresponding to first appearance of liquid water at the membrane/cathode interface. When the cell operates above the threshold current density, liquid water appears and a two-phase zone forms within the porous cathode. A two-phase, multicomponent mixture model in conjunction with a finite-volume-based computational fluid dynamics (CFD) technique is applied to simulate the cathode operation in this regime. The model is able to handle the situation where a single-phase region co-exists with a two-phase zone in the air cathode. For the first time, the polarization curve as well as water and oxygen concentration distributions encompassing both single- and two-phase regimes of the air cathode are presented. Capillary action is found to be the dominant mechanism for water transport inside the two-phase zone of the hydrophilic structure. The liquid water saturation within the cathode is predicted to reach 6.3% at 1.4 A cm-2 for dry inlet air.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering