Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

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

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Jeffrey Allen


A phenomenological transition film evaporation model was introduced to a pore network model with the consideration of pore radius, contact angle, non-isothermal interface temperature, microscale fluid flows and heat and mass transfers. This was achieved by modeling the transition film region of the menisci in each pore throughout the porous transport layer of a half-cell polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell. The model presented in this research is compared with the standard diffusive fuel cell modeling approach to evaporation and shown to surpass the conventional modeling approach in terms of predicting the evaporation rates in porous media.

The current diffusive evaporation models used in many fuel cell transport models assumes a constant evaporation rate across the entire liquid-air interface. The transition film model was implemented into the pore network model to address this issue and create a pore size dependency on the evaporation rates. This is accomplished by evaluating the transition film evaporation rates determined by the kinetic model for every pore containing liquid water in the porous transport layer (PTL).

The comparison of a transition film and diffusive evaporation model shows an increase in predicted evaporation rates for smaller pore sizes with the transition film model. This is an important parameter when considering the micro-scaled pore sizes seen in the PTL and becomes even more substantial when considering transport in fuel cells containing an MPL, or a large variance in pore size.

Experimentation was performed to validate the transition film model by monitoring evaporation rates from a non-zero contact angle water droplet on a heated substrate. The substrate was a glass plate with a hydrophobic coating to reduce wettability. The tests were performed at a constant substrate temperature and relative humidity. The transition film model was able to accurately predict the drop volume as time elapsed.

By implementing the transition film model to a pore network model the evaporation rates present in the PTL can be more accurately modeled. This improves the ability of a pore network model to predict the distribution of liquid water and ultimately the level of flooding exhibited in a PTL for various operating conditions.