Modeling two-phase flow in PEM fuel cell channels

Yun Wang, Suman Basu, Chao Yang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


This paper is concerned with the simultaneous flow of liquid water and gaseous reactants in mini-channels of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. Envisaging the mini-channels as structured and ordered porous media, we develop a continuum model of two-phase channel flow based on two-phase Darcy's law and the M2 formalism, which allow estimate of the parameters key to fuel cell operation such as overall pressure drop and liquid saturation profiles along the axial flow direction. Analytical solutions of liquid water saturation and species concentrations along the channel are derived to explore the dependences of these physical variables vital to cell performance on operating parameters such as flow stoichiometric ratio and relative humility. The two-phase channel model is further implemented for three-dimensional numerical simulations of two-phase, multi-component transport in a single fuel-cell channel. Three issues critical to optimizing channel design and mitigating channel flooding in PEM fuel cells are fully discussed: liquid water buildup towards the fuel cell outlet, saturation spike in the vicinity of flow cross-sectional heterogeneity, and two-phase pressure drop. Both the two-phase model and analytical solutions presented in this paper may be applicable to more general two-phase flow phenomena through mini- and micro-channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-617
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2008

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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