Constructal PEM fuel cell stack design

This paper describes a structured procedure to optimize the internal structure (relative sizes, spacings), single cells thickness, and external shape (aspect ratios) of a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) stack so that net power is maximized. The constructal design starts from the smallest (elemental) level of a fuel cell stack (the single PEMFC), which is modeled as a unidirectional flow system, proceeding to the pressure drops experienced in the headers and gas channels of the single cells in the stack. The polarization curve, total and net power, and efficiencies are obtained as functions of temperature, pressure, geometry and operating parameters. The optimization is subjected to fixed stack total volume. There are two levels of optimization: (i) the internal structure, which accounts for the relative thicknesses of two reaction and diffusion layers and the membrane space, together with the single cells thickness, and (ii) the external shape, which accounts for the external aspect ratios of the PEMFC stack. The flow components are distributed optimally through the available volume so that the PEMFC stack net power is maximized. Numerical results show that the optimized single cells internal structure and stack external shape are "robust" with respect to changes in stoichiometric ratios, membrane water content, and total stack volume. The optimized internal structure and single cells thickness, and the stack external shape are results of an optimal balance between electrical power output and pumping power required to supply fuel and oxidant to the fuel cell through the stack headers and single-cell gas channels. It is shown that the twice maximized stack net power increases monotonically with total volume raised to the power 3/4, similarly to metabolic rate and body size in animal design. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vargas, JVC; Ordonez, JC; Bejan, A

Published Date

  • 2005

Published In

  • International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer

Volume / Issue

  • 48 / 21-22

Start / End Page

  • 4410 - 4427

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.ijheatmasstransfer.2005.05.009

Citation Source

  • SciVal