Numerical simulations are carried out for a single-channel polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) undergoing a step increase in current density. The objective is to elucidate profound interactions between the cell voltage response and water transport dynamics occurring in a low-humidity PEFC where the membrane hydration and hence resistance hinges upon the product water. Detailed results are presented to show that a step increase in the current density leads to anode dryout due to electroosmotic drag, while it takes several seconds for water back-diffusion and anode humidified gas to re-wet the anode side of the polymer membrane. The water redistribution process is controlled by water production, membrane hydration, electroosmotic drag, and water diffusion in the membrane. The anode dryout results in a substantial drop in cell voltage and hence temporary power loss. Under extreme situations such as dry anode feed, large step increase in the current density, and/or lower temperatures, the cell voltage may even reverse, resulting in not only power loss but also cell degradation. Finally, the dynamics of current distribution after a step change in gas humidification is numerically examined.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Chemical Engineering