Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Advisor

Kazuya Tajiri

Abstract

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell has been known as a promising power source for different applications such as automotive, residential and stationary. During the operation of a PEM fuel cell, hydrogen is oxidized in anode and oxygen is reduced in the cathode to produce the intended power. Water and heat are inevitable byproducts of these reactions. The water produced in the cathode should be properly removed from inside the cell. Otherwise, it may block the path of reactants passing through the gas channels and/or gas diffusion layer (GDL). This deteriorates the performance of the cell and eventually can cease the operation of the cell. Water transport in PEM fuel cell has been the subject of this PhD study. Water transport on the surface of the GDL, through the gas flow channels, and through GDL has been studied in details. For water transport on the surface of the GDL, droplet detachment has been measured for different GDL conditions and for anode and cathode gas flow channels. Water transport through gas flow channels has been investigated by measuring the two-phase flow pressure drop along the gas flow channels. As accumulated liquid water within gas flow channels resists the gas flow, the pressure drop increases along the flow channels. The two-phase flow pressure drop can reveal useful information about the amount of liquid water accumulated within gas flow channels. Liquid water transport though GDL has also been investigated by measuring the liquid water breakthrough pressure for the region between the capillary fingering and the stable displacement on the drainage phase diagram. The breakthrough pressure has been measured for different variables such as GDL thickness, PTFE/Nafion content within the GDL, GDL compression, the inclusion of a micro-porous layer (MPL), and different water flow rates through the GDL. Prior to all these studies, GDL microstructural properties have been studied. GDL microstructural properties such as mean pore diameter, pore diameter distribution, and pore roundness distribution have been investigated by analyzing SEM images of GDL samples.

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