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An open source framework for advanced Multi-physics and multiscale modelling of solid oxide fuel cells

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-19, 16:27 authored by Wanhui Zhao, Valerie PinfieldValerie Pinfield, Huizhi Wang, Jin Xuan, Zhiqiang NiuZhiqiang Niu

Solid oxide fuel cells are high-efficiency renewable energy devices and considered one of the most promising net-zero carbon energy technologies. Numerical modelling is a powerful tool for the virtual design and optimisation of the next-generation solid oxide fuel cells but needs to tackle issues for incorporating the multi-scale character of the cell and further improving the accuracy and computational efficiency. While most of solid oxide fuel cell models were developed based on closed source platforms which limit the freedom of customisation in numerical discretization schemes and community participation. Here, an open source multi-physics and multiscale platform for advanced SOFC simulations consisting of both cell- and pore-scale performance models was developed using OpenFOAM. The modelling aspects are elucidated in detail, involving the coupling of various physical equations and the implementation of the pore-scale electrode in the performance model. The entire platform was carefully validated against experimental data and the other numerical models which were implemented in commercial software ANSYS Fluent and based on the lattice Boltzmann method. The cell-scale model is subsequently employed to study the effects of different fuels, i.e., pure hydrogen and different ratios of pre-reformed methane gas under various operating temperatures. It is found that the cell-scale model reasonably predicts the effects of these parameters on the cell performance, aligning well with the Fluent model. This study further identified the size of representative element volume with respect to the current density for the anode via the pore-scale model where the realistic microstructures reconstructed by a Xe plasma focused ion beam–scanning electron microscopy are employed as computational domains. It is found that a volume element size of 1243 voxels is sufficient to yield the representative current density of the whole. All these numerical investigations show that OpenFOAM is a potential multi-physics and multi-scale computational platform that is capable of accurately predicting both cell-scale and pore-scale performance and spatial information of solid oxide fuel cells. The developed models are also made public in GitHub to inspire community to further develop around it.


National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 52206187)

Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, Civil Aviation University of China (Grant No. 3122021044)

Royal Society – K. C. Wong International Fellowship (NIF\R1\191864)



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering

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Energy Conversion and Management






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© The Authors

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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Elsevier under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Deposit date: 12 July 2023

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