Numerical simulation of two-phase flow in gas diffusion layer and gas channel of proton exchange membrane fuel cells

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Liquid water within the cathode Gas Diffusion Layer (GDL) and Gas Channel (GC) of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs) is strongly coupled to gas transport properties, thereby affecting the electrochemical conversion rates. In this study, the GDL and GC regions are utilized as the simulation domain, which differs from previous studies that only focused on any one of them. A Volume of Fluid (VOF) method is adopted to numerically investigate the two-phase flow (gas and liquid) behavior, e.g., water transport pattern evolution, water coverage ratio as well as local and total water saturation. To obtain GDL geometries, an in-house geometry-based method is developed for GDL reconstruction. Furthermore, to study the effect of GDL carbon fiber diameter, the same procedure is used to reconstruct three GDL structures by varying the carbon fiber diameter but keeping the porosity and geometric dimensions constant. The wall wettability is introduced with static contact angles at carbon fiber surfaces and channel walls. The results show that the GDL fiber microstructure has a significant impact on the two-phase flow patterns in the cathode field. Different stages of two-phase flow pattern evolution in both cathode domains are observed. The liquid water in the GDL experiences water invasion, spreading, and rising, followed by the droplet breakthrough in the GDL/GC interface. In the GC, the water droplets randomly experience accumulation, combination, attachment, and detachment. Due to the difference in surface wettability, the water coverage of the GDL/GC interface is smaller than that of the channel side and top walls. It is also found that the water saturation inside the GDL stabilizes after the water breakthrough, while local water saturation at the interface keeps irregular oscillations. Last but not the least, a water saturation balance requirement between the GDL and GC is observed. In terms of varying fiber diameter, a larger fiber diameter would result in less water saturation in the GDL but more water in the GC, in addition to faster water movement throughout the total domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15677-15694
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number41
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Energy Engineering

Free keywords

  • Carbon fiber diameter
  • Gas diffusion layer
  • Stochastic reconstruction
  • Volume-of-fluid method
  • Water saturation


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