Loughborough University
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A numerical study on the effects of surface and geometry design on water behaviour in PEM fuel cell gas channels

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posted on 2014-11-14, 11:53 authored by Mosab Alrahmani
Water management is a serious issue that affects the performance and durability of PEM fuel cells. It is known, from previous experimental investigations, that surface wettability has influence on water behaviour and fuel cell performance. This finding has lead researchers to develop numerical tools for further investigation of the liquid water behaviour in gas channels. The Volume-of-Fluid (VOF) method has been used in a wide range of studies for its advantage of showing the multi-phase interface in a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation to understand liquid water behaviour in gas channels. In this thesis, numerical study has been carried out to examine the behaviour of liquid water in gas channels. The dynamic movement of the liquid water in the channel and the associated pressure drop, water saturation and water coverage of the GDL have been investigated. Firstly, flow diffusion into the GDL was examined to determine its effect on liquid droplet behaviour in a small section of a gas channel. Furthermore, the effects of the percentage of flow diffusion, GDL wettability, pore size, and water inlet velocity were investigated. Fluid diffusion into GDL found to have insignificant impact on liquid water behaviour so further investigations has been carried with a solid GDL surface. Secondly, gas channel geometry effect on liquid water behaviour was studied. Square, semicircle, triangle, trapezoid with a long base and trapezoid with a short base were compared to find suitable cross section geometry to carry wall wettability investigations. Among the examined geometries, the square cross section showed reasonable results for both scenarios of geometry design, fixed Reynolds number and fixed GDL interface. The effect of wall wettability was assessed by comparing nine different wall/GDL wettability combinations for straight and bend channels. Wall wettability found to have an impact on liquid water behaviour but not as much as GDL wettability. It affects liquid water saturation in the channel by a great deal by accumulating water in the channel edges affecting water behaviour. This was also proven in the last test case of a long channel where water accumulation was investigated by running the calculation until the percentage of water saturation is stabilized. It is also concluded that changing wall wettability from hydrophobic to hydrophilic doubles the percentage of channel occupied by liquid water and increases the time to reach steady state.


PAAET of Kuwait



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


© Mosab Alrahmani

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en