The effect of vertical injection of reactants to the membrane electrode assembly on the performance of a PEM fuel cell

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Tabriz

2 Mechanical Engineering Faculty, Sahand University of Technology


In order to present a new and high performance structure of PEM fuel cell and study the influence of the flow direction and distribution on the rate of reactants diffusion, three novel models of vertical reactant flow injection into the anode and cathode reaction area field have been introduced. They consist of one inlet and two inlets and also a continuous channel. The governing equations on the steady, three dimensional non-isothermal flow have been discretized using finite volume method. These 3D simulations are going to evaluate the effectiveness of flow direction on the transportation and chemical phenomena inside the PEM fuel cell by applying computational fluid dynamics (CFD) method to the transportation and conservation equations with the suppositions of steady state and one phase flow. The numerical results are validated with experimental ones for available common fuel cells. The results show that the presented geometries have several mechanical and chemical benefits such as extra diffusion of reactants because of flow direction, improvement of species distributions, enhancement in temperature management and more effective water removal due to the number of outlets and uniform current distribution. Furthermore, the continuous channel inlet due to cover more reaction area and high rate of reactants diffusion presents substantial higher performance than others. With regard to the polarization curve along with other advantages, the so-called design can be strongly recommended for obtaining high operating efficiency and can be considered for the manufacturing of new generation of PEM fuel cells in the form of high performance stacks.


Main Subjects

[1] Kim YS, Kim SI, Lee NW, Kim MS., “Study on a purge method using pressure reduction for effective water removal in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:9473-84.

[2] Taspinara R, Litster S, Kumbur EC., “A computational study to investigate the effects of the bipolar plate and gas diffusion layer interface in polymer electrolyte fuel cells”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:7124-34.

[3] Verma A, Pitchumani R., “Influence of transient operating parameters on the mechanical behavior of fuel cells”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:8442-53.

[4] Jeon Y, Na H, Hwang H, Park J, Hwang H, Shul Y., “Accelerated life-time test protocols for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells operated at high temperature”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:3057-67.

[5] Sadeghifar H, Djilali N, Bahrami M., “Effect of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and micro porous layer (MPL) on thermal conductivity of fuel cell gas diffusion layers: modeling and experiments”, J Power Sources, 2014, 248:632-41.

[6] Sadeghifar H, Bahrami M, Djilali N., “A statistically based thermal conductivity model for PEMFC gas diffusion layers”, J Power Sources, 2013, 233:369-79.

[7] Sadeghifar H, Djilali N, Bahrami M., “A new model for thermal contact resistance between fuel cell gas diffusion layers and bipolar plates”, J Power Sources, 2014, 266:51-9.

[8] Sadeghifar H, Djilali N, Bahrami M., “Thermal conductivity of a graphite bipolar plate (BPP) and its thermal contact resistance with fuel cell gas diffusion layers: effect of compression, PTFE, micro porous layer (MPL), BPP out-of flatness and cyclic load”, J Power Sources, 2015, 273:96-104.

[9] Mert SO, Ozcelik Z, Dincer I., “Comparative assessment and optimization of fuel cells”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:7835-45.

[10] Wei Zh, Su K, Sui Sh, He A, Du Sh., “High performance polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) with gradient Pt nanowire cathodes prepared by decal transfer method”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:3068-74.

[11] Limjeerajarus N, Charoen-amornkitt P., “Effect of different flow field designs and number of channels on performance of a small PEFC”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:7144-58.

[12] Arvay A, French J, Wang JC, Peng XH, Kannan AM., “Nature inspired flow field designs for proton exchange membrane fuel cell”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2013, 38:3717-26.

[13] Hsieh SS, Yang SH, Kuo JK, Huang CF, Tsai HH., “Study of operational parameters on the performance of micro PEMFCs with different flow fields”, Energy Convers Manage, 2006, 47:1868.

[14] Torkavannejad A, pesteei M, Khalilian M, Ramin F, Mirzaee I., “Effect of Deflected Membrane Electrode Assembly on Species Distribution in PEMFC”, International Journal of Engineering, transactions, 2015, 28:3.

[15] Yuh MF, Su A., “A three-dimensional full-cell CFD model used to investigate the effects of different flow channel designs on PEMFC performance”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2007, 32:4466e76.

[16] Lorenzini-Gutierrez D, Hernandez-Guerrero A, Ramos-Alvarado B, Perez-Raya I, Alatorre-Ordaz A., “Performance analysis of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell using tree-shaped designs for flow distribution”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2013, 38:14750-14763.

[17] Sierra J, Figueroa-Ramı´rez S.J, Dı´az S.E, Vargas J, Sebastian P.J., “Numerical evaluation of PEM fuel cell with conventional flow fields adapted to tubular plates”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2014,  39(29):16694–16705.

 [18] Pourmahmoud N, Rezazadeh S, Mirzaee I, MotalebFaed S., “A computational study of a three-dimensional proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) with conventional and deflected membrane electrode”, J Mech Sci Technol, 2012, 26:2959e68.

[19] Escobar-Vargas JA, Hernandez-Guerrero A, Alatorre Ordaz A, Damian-Ascencio C.E., Elizalde-Blancas F., “Performance of a non-conventional flow field in a PEMFC”, The 20th International Conference on Efficiency, Cost, Optimization Simulation and Environmental Impact of Energy Systems,  , Padova, Italy, June 25-28, 2007

[20] Juarez-Robles D, Hernandez-Guerrero A, Ramos-Alvarado B, Elizalde-Blancas F, Damian-Ascencio CE., “Multiple concentric spirals for the flow field of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell”, J Power Sources, 2011, 196:8019e30.

[21] Cano-Andrade S, Hernandez-Guerrero A, Von-Spakovsky MR, Rubio-Arana C., “Effect of the radial plate flow field distribution on current density in a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell”, ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Seattle-Washington, United States of America, 2007.

[22] Cano-Andrade S, Hernandez-Guerrero A, Von Spakovsky MR, Damian-Ascencio CE, Rubio-Arana JC., “Current density and polarization curves for radial flow field patterns applied to PEMFCs (proton exchange membrane fuel cells)”, Energy, 2010, 35:920e7.

[23] Torkavannejad A, Sadeghifar H, Pourmahmoud N, Ramin F., “Novel architectures of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells: Efficiency enhancement and cost reduction”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40:12466–12477.

[24] Wang XD, Huang YX, Cheng CH, Jang JY, Lee DJ, Yan WM, et al., “An inverse geometry design problem for optimization of single serpentine flow field of PEM fuel cell”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2010, 35:4247-57.

[25] Ramos-Alvarado B, Hernandez-Guerrero A, Juarez-Robles D, Li L., “Numerical investigation of the performance of symmetric flow distributors as flow channels for PEM fuel cells international”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2012, 37:436-48.

[26] Chen YS, Peng H., “Predicting current density distribution of proton exchange membrane fuel cells with different flow field designs”, J Power Sources, 2011, 196:1992-2004.

[29] Sadeghifara H., Djilalic N., Majid Bahramib M., “Counter-intuitive reduction of thermal contact resistance with porosity: A case study of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells”, Int J  Hydrogen Energy, 2016, 41: 6833-6841.

 [30] Friess BR, Hoorfar M., “Development of a novel radial cathode flow field for PEMFC”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2012, 37:7719-29.

[31] Surajudeen Olanrewaju O., “Performance enhancement in proton exchange membrane fuel cell-numerical modeling and optimization [PhD thesis]”, University of Pretoria, 2012.

 [32] Tiss F, Chouikh R, Guizani A., “A numerical investigation of reactants transport in a PEM fuel cell with partially blocked gas channel“, Energy Conversion Management 2014; 80:32-8.

 [33] Walczyk DF, Sangra JS., “A feasibility study of Ribbon architecture for PEM fuel cells”, ASME J Fuel Cell Sci Technol, 2010, 7:051001.

[34] Tseng C, Tsang Tsai B, Liu Zh, Cheng T, Chang W, Lo Sh., “A PEM fuel cell with metal foam as flow distributor”, Energy Conversion and Management, 2012, 62:14–21.

[35] Bilgili M, Bosomoiu M , Tsotridis G., “Gas flow field with obstacles for PEM fuel cells at different operating conditions”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2016, 40:2303–2311.

[36] Vazifeshenas Y, Sedighi k, Shakeri M., “Numerical investigation of a novel compound flow field for PEMFC performance improvement”, Int J Hydrogen Energy, 2015, 40(16):15032–15039.

[37] Khazaee I, Ghazikhani M., “Three-dimensional modeling and development of the new geometry PEM fuel cell”, Arabian J Sci Eng, 2013, 38:1551-64.

[38] Sadiq Al-Baghdadi Maher AR, Shahad Al-Janabi Haroun AK., “Parametric and optimization study of a PEM fuel cell performance using three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics model”, Renew Energy, 2007, 32:1077-101.

[39] Fuller EN, Schettler PD, Giddings JC., “New method for prediction of binary gas-phase diffusion coefficients”, Int Eng Chem, 1966, 58:1-27.