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Design Strategy for a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Flow-Field Capable of Switching Between Parallel and Interdigitated Configurations

UCD-ITS-RP-13-129

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Suggested Citation:
Santamaria, Anthony, John Bachman, Jae Wan Park (2013) Design Strategy for a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Flow-Field Capable of Switching Between Parallel and Interdigitated Configurations. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 38, 5807 - 5812

Novel water management strategies are important to the development of next generation polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell systems (PEMFCs). Parallel and interdigitated flow fields are two common types of PEMFC designs that have benefits and draw backs depending upon operating conditions. Parallel flow fields rely predominately on diffusion to deliver reactants and remove byproduct water. Interdigitated flow fields induce convective transport, known as cross flow, through the porous gas diffusion layer (GDL) and therefore are superior at water removal beneath land areas which can lead to higher cell performance. Unfortunately, forcing flow through the GDL results in higher pumping losses as the inlet pressure for interdigitated flow fields can be up to an order of magnitude greater than that for a parallel flow field. In this study a flow field capable of switching between parallel and interdigitated configurations was designed and tested. Results show, taking into account pumping losses, that using constant stoichiometry the parallel flow field results in a higher system power under low current density operation compared to the interdigitated configuration. The interdigitated flow-field configuration was observed to have lower overvoltage at elevated current densities resulting in a higher maximum power and a higher limiting current density. An optimal system power curve was produced by switching from parallel to interdigitated configuration based on which produces a higher system power at a given current density. This design method can be easily implemented with current PEMFC technology and requires minimal hardware. Some of the consequences this design has on system components are discussed.

Keywords: PEM fuel cell, Flow field, Parallel, Interdigitated