Constructal flow distributor as a bipolar plate for proton exchange membrane fuel cells

Bladimir Ramos-Alvarado, Abel Hernandez-Guerrero, Francisco Elizalde-Blancas, Michael W. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


A plate-type constructal flow distributor is implemented as a gas distributor for a proton exchange membrane fuel cell. A 3D complete model is simulated using CFD techniques. The fuel cell model includes the gas flow channels, the gas diffusion layers and the membrane-electrode assembly (MEA). The governing equations for the mass and momentum transfer are solved including the pertinent source terms due to the electrochemical reactions in the different zones of the fuel cell. Three constructal flow configurations were studied; each pattern is a fractal expansion of the original design, therefore, the only difference between them is the number of branches in the geometry. It was found that the number of branches is the key parameter in the performance of a fuel cell when using the constructal distributors as flow channels. The performance of the fuel cell is reported in I-V curves, power curves, and overpotential curves in order to determine which irreversibility is the main cause of energy losses. In terms of flow analysis, it was found that the constructal flow distributor presents a low pressure drop for a wide range of Reynolds number conditions at the inlet, as well as an excellent uniformity of flow distribution. Regardless of the outstanding hydrodynamic performance of the constructal distributors and the large current density values obtained, the implementation of these designs as flow patterns for PEMFCs need further optimization; first, the manufacturing of the plates have to be addressed in an efficient way; and secondly, the application in stacks will require an elaborate design to accomplish this task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12965-12976
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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