A feasibility study of internal evaporative cooling for proton exchange membrane fuel cells



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Texas A&M University


An investigation was conducted to determine the feasibility of using the technique of ultrasonic nebulization of water into the anode gas stream for evaporative cooling of a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell. The basic concept of this form of internal evaporative cooling of the PEM fuel cell is to introduce finely atomized liquid water into the anode gas stream, so that the finely atomized liquid water adsorbs onto the anode and then moves to the cathode via electro-osmotic drag, where this water then evaporates into the relatively dry cathode gas stream, carrying with it the waste thermal energy generated within the fuel cell. The thermal and electrical performance of a 50 cm2 PEM fuel cell utilizing this technique was compared to the performance obtained with conventional water management. Both techniques were compared over a range of humidification chamber temperatures for both the anode and cathode gas streams so as to determine the robustness of the proposed method. The proposed method produced only meager levels of evaporative cooling (at best 2 watts, for which a minimum of 30 watts was required for adequate cooling), but the average cell voltage increased considerably (as much as a 10% gain), and the technique increased the fault tolerance of the fuel cell (the Nafion?? membrane did not dry out even if cell temperature went well in excess of 70?? C despite both anode and cathode humidification temperatures of 55?? C). An interesting phenomena was also observed wherein the fuel cell voltage oscillated regularly with a period of tens of seconds, and that the amplitude of this oscillation corresponded inversely with the level of humidification received by the fuel cell.