Enhanced fuel cell performance with optimized flows

Jun 13, 2012
Enhanced fuel cell performance with optimized flows
Credit: Thinkstock

Fuel cells convert the chemical energy in fuels (hydrogen and hydrocarbons such as methane, butane, gasoline or diesel) into electrical energy to power devices. EU researchers developed a simplified computational model simulating flow distribution within the fuel cell stack with the potential to enhance performance and efficiency and thus the widespread implementation of this clean, renewable form of energy.

Over the past 50 years, fuel cells have been gaining interest as an alternative renewable form of energy to minimize dependence on fossil fuels while protecting the environment.

Particular focus has been on (SOFCs) because of their high-efficiency, low-cost, multi-fuel capacity and obvious environmental benefits. With no moving parts rendering them vibration-free, they even eliminate .

However, uneven and inefficient distribution of reactant gas flows especially under high fuel utilization conditions often result in decreased efficiency and performance loss.

with funding for the Hydrosofc project sought to apply simple flow network modelling techniques, computationally cheaper than complex (CFD) methods, to investigate the most important factors affecting flow distribution and enable its reliable prediction. Such methods could provide the accuracy engineers require faster and with enhanced optimization capabilities.

Scientists developed three different models to simulate a range of effects and their importance in flow distribution, including a semi-three-dimensional (3D) CFD model, a 2D analytical model and a 2D hydraulic model.

They determined that operation of the stack under electric load (high fuel utilisation) conditions increases maldistribution for U-flow manifold configurations (a U-turn of sorts) in which flow enters and leaves from the same end of the stack compared to Z-flow, characterized by flow entering on one end and leaving on the other end.

According to the models, maldistribution was determined by the ratio of pressure drop in the inlet and outlet manifolds of the model to the pressure drop in the fuel cell flow field. Experimental measurements confirmed computational results and supported the feasibility of the hydraulic model in calculating flow distribution in the fuel stack with the accuracy required for engineering design estimates.

Hydrosofc scientists have provided a simplified computational flow model capable of predicting maldistributions of flow critical to SOFC performance and overcoming one of the main stumbling blocks so far to widespread SOFC commercial exploitation.

Explore further: Congress: Safety agency mishandled GM recall

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NIST helps heat pumps 'go with the flow' to boost output

Jan 23, 2008

Air-source heat pumps typically deliver 1 1/2 to three times more heating energy to a home than the electric energy they consume. This is possible because heat pumps move heat rather than convert it from a ...

Fuel cells show potential

Mar 20, 2012

National Physical Laboratory scientists have developed an innovative fuel cell reference electrode that has been used to map changes in electrode potential inside a working polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) ...

A hot source of energy

Jun 27, 2005

Stacks of ceramic plates are capable of transforming fuels like natural gas into electricity using an electrochemical process. High-temperature fuel cells are ideal for use in power supply systems for buildings ...

Recommended for you

Congress: Safety agency mishandled GM recall

18 hours ago

Both houses of Congress scolded the U.S. highway safety agency Tuesday over its tardy handling of a deadly problem with General Motors cars, questioning whether it is competent to guarantee the safety of ...

Jindal: Obama hasn't done enough to harness energy

Sep 16, 2014

The governor of the state of Louisiana, a possible Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's administration has become "science deniers," failing to do enough to harness the nation's energy ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

yoatmon
not rated yet Jun 13, 2012
What results can be expected of improved flow? Is efficiency subsequently improved as well as economics of scale? How about some figures to provide insight to the performed work.