Performance analysis of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell using tree-shaped designs for flow distribution

Daniel Lorenzini-Gutierrez, Abel Hernandez-Guerrero, Bladimir Ramos-Alvarado, Isaac Perez-Raya, Alejandro Alatorre-Ordaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The performance of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell is directly associated to the flow channels design embedded in the bipolar plates. The flow field within a fuel cell must provide efficient mass transport with a reduced pressure drop through the flow channels in order to obtain a uniform current distribution and a high power density. In this investigation, three-dimensional fuel cell models are analyzed using computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The proposed flow fields are radially designed tree-shaped geometries that connect the center flow inlet to the perimeter of the fuel cell plate. Three flow geometries having different levels of bifurcation were investigated as flow channels for PEM fuel cells. The performance of the fuel cells is reported in polarization and power curves, and compared with that of fuel cells using conventional flow patterns such as serpentine and parallel channels. Results from the flow analysis indicate that tree-shaped flow patterns can provide a relatively low pressure drop as well as a uniform flow distribution. It was found that as the number of bifurcation levels increases, a larger active area can be utilized in order to generate higher power and current densities from the fuel cell with a negligible increase in pumping power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14750-14763
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number34
StatePublished - Nov 13 2013

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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