Date of Award

8-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Wiltowski, Tomasz

Abstract

The performance of a new cathode flow field plate located on a PEM fuel cell was compared to an industry standard and optimal serpentine design provided from literature. Results were successfully collected through a fuel cell module integrated with the 3D computational fluid dynamics package ANSYS Fluent. Contour plots showing a cathode catalyst layer comparison of local current density, oxygen molar concentrations, water content, and the pressure inside of the flow channels were compared with both PEM fuel cell configurations. The new flow field plate/pattern was shown to distribute more mass species of oxygen, more evenly, to the reaction site given the same boundary conditions, thus contributing to more ideal local current density. The net-power was determined for both fuel cells which included the pump work-in and power-out from each fuel cell. The new flow field plate was shown, through computational power performance results, to outperform the conventional flow pattern by up to 2.4% when excluding the effects of pump work, and still upheld a positive gain when factoring in this value. With an additional 18 corners for improved water management due to the effects of wall adhesion, the new bipolar plate was proven to become a new competitor in PEM fuel cell technology. Furthermore, this thesis gives further insight on PEMFC digital prototyping.

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