Study of water distribution and transport in a polymer electrolyte fuel cell using neutron imaging

N. Pekula, K. Heller, P. A. Chuang, A. Turhan, M. M. Mench, J. S. Brenizer, K. Ünlü

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

249 Scopus citations


A procedure to utilize neutron imaging for the visualization of two-phase flow within an operating polymer electrolyte fuel cell has been developed at the Penn State Breazeale Nuclear Reactor. Neutron images allow us to visualize the liquid water inside the flow channel (∼0.5 mm deep) and gas diffusion media (∼200 μm thick) in real operating conditions. The current temporal and spatial resolution for radioscopy is approximately 30 frames/s and 129 μm/pixel in a 50 cm2 image area. Continuous digital radioscopy can be recorded for 45 min. The determination of water volume within the cell has been enabled by referencing a calibration look-up table that correlates neutron attenuation to an equivalent liquid water thickness. It was found that liquid water tends to accumulate at specific locations within the fuel cell, depending on operating conditions. Anode flow channel blockage was observed to occur at low power, while higher power conditions resulted in more dispersed distribution of liquid droplets. Under high-power conditions, liquid water tended to accumulate along or under the channel walls at 180° turns, and radioscopy revealed that individual liquid droplet velocities were several orders of magnitude less than that of the reactant flow, indicating a slug-flow regime up to at least 1 A/cm2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-141
Number of pages8
JournalNuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Apr 21 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Instrumentation


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