Optimization of Component Material Properties and Flow Channel Geometric Parameters in a PEM Fuel Cell Cathode
To further illustrate the potential benefit of fuel cell components with spatially non-uniform material properties, consider the cathode side of a fuel cell with a serpentine flow channel. At the inlet, the oxygen concentration is highest, while at the outlet, the oxygen is depleted due to electrochemical reactions. However, the material properties of the typical gas diffusion layer are the same near the inlet as they are near the outlet. Due to the non-uniformity of the reactant concentration profile, it stands to reason that the performance of the fuel cell could be impacted by a gas diffusion layer which has a spatially variable effective diffusivity.
In this work, we use STAR-CCM+ to simulate heat transfer/production, flow, species transport, electrodynamics, and electrochemical reactions in the cathode side of a fuel cell with a serpentine flow channel. We use Optimate+, a STAR-CCM+ embedded optimization package, which uses a proprietary hybrid-adaptive algorithm named SHERPA, to maximize the total current generated in the cathode side of the fuel cell by changing the porosity profiles in the gas diffusion layer and catalyst layer, the platinum loading profile in the catalyst layer and the geometric parameters of the flow channel design. We will present results from our simulations and optimization study in addition to discussing the limitations of our physical model and future topics for research.