Computational study of water transport in proton exchange membrane fuel cells

Sukkee Um, Chao Yang Wang

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97 Scopus citations


A computational fuel cell dynamics framework is used to develop a unified water transport equation for a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). Various modes of water transport, i.e., diffusion, convection and electro-osmotic drag, are incorporated in the unified water transport equation. The water transport model is then applied to elucidate water management in three-dimensional fuel cells with dry-to-low humidified inlet gases after its validation against available experimental data for dry oxidant and fuel streams. An internal circulation of water with the aid of counter-flow design is found to be of vital importance for low-humidity operation, for example, in the portable application of a PEMFC without an external humidifier. The general features of water transport in PEMFCs are discussed to show various water transport regimes of practical interest, such as anode water loss, cathode flooding, and the equilibrium condition of water at the channel outlets, particularly for limiting situations where anode and cathode water profiles acquire an equilibrium state. From the practical point of view, the effects of the flow arrangement, membrane thickness, and inlet gas humidity as important determinants of fuel cell performance are also analyzed to elucidate fuel cell water transport characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-223
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006

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


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