Anisotropic Heat Conduction Effects in Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Chaitanya J. Bapat

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802cjb282@psu.edu

Stefan T. Thynell1

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802Thynell@psu.edu


Corresponding author.

J. Heat Transfer 129(9), 1109-1118 (Jul 26, 2006) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2712478 History: Received November 14, 2005; Revised July 26, 2006

The focus of this work is to study the effects of anisotropic thermal conductivity and thermal contact conductance on the overall temperature distribution inside a fuel cell. The gas-diffusion layers and membrane are expected to possess an anisotropic thermal conductivity, whereas a contact resistance is present between the current collectors and gas-diffusion layers. A two-dimensional single phase model is used to capture transport phenomena inside the cell. From the use of this model, it is predicted that the maximum temperatures inside the cell can be appreciably higher than the operating temperature of the cell. A high value of the in-plane thermal conductivity for the gas-diffusion layers was seen to be essential for achieving smaller temperature gradients. However, the maximum improvement in the heat transfer characteristics of the fuel cell brought about by increasing the in-plane thermal conductivity is limited by the presence of a finite thermal contact conductance at the diffusion layer/current collector interface. This was determined to be even more important for thin gas-diffusion layers. Anisotropic thermal conductivity of the membrane, however, did not have a significant impact on the temperature distribution. The thermal contact conductance at the diffusion layer/current collector interface strongly affected the temperature distribution inside the cell.

Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 6

Effect of anisotropy in thermal conductivity of gas-diffusion layers on temperature (a)kyy∕kxx=0.33 and (b)kyy∕kxx=10.0

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Figure 1

Schematic of PEM fuel cell and coordinate system

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Figure 2

Temperature distribution for base case operation

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Figure 3

Polarization curve obtained from model and compared with experimental results (54)

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Figure 4

Variation of membrane and GDL temperatures with current density

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Figure 5

Temperature distribution at two values of thermal contact conductance: (a)hcontact=500W∕m2K, and (b)hcontact=10,000W∕m2K

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Figure 8

Effect of GDL thickness on temperatures inside the cell (a) GDL thickness=100μm and (b) GDL thickness=400μm

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Figure 9

Variation of maximum fuel cell temperature with increasing y direction thermal conductivity. (All other parameter values are at base-case condition.)

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Figure 10

A simplified view of heat transfer in a fuel cell

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Figure 7

Effect of anisotropy in thermal conductivity of membrane on temperature (a)kyy∕kxx=0.33 and (b)kyy∕kxx=10.0



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