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PEMFC performance and certain degradation mechanisms affecting these fuel cells are closely related to the amount of liquid water present in the fuel cells' different components. To improve performance and limit degradation, more accurate estimates of the appearance and distribution of liquid water throughout the cell—phenomena still not very well understood because they are hard to observe in complex systems like fuel cells—are absolutely crucial.
Liten researchers used the MUSES platform to develop a pseudo-3D model to simulate local operating conditions in fuel cells depending on the design of the bipolar plates. This was the first-ever simulation of the distribution of liquid water over the entire surface of a commercially-available cell (220 sq. cm). The researchers then compared the results of the simulations to images obtained by direct observation of the liquid water in operando using neutron imaging. The images confirmed the validity of the model, especially at low temperatures.
The model was successfully tested on an existing design and could also be used to improve the performance of new designs. It will also provide deeper insights into local degradation mechanisms due to liquid water in fuel cells for more accurate aging predictions.
*Proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.