Numerical Investigation of the Water Droplet Transport in a PEM Fuel Cell with Serpentine Flow Channel


1 Presently on Deputation at the Department of Mechanical Engineering Texas A & M University, TX 77843-3123, USA

2 Simulation & Modeling Laboratory CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, Durgapur-713209, India


The serpentine flow channel can be considered as one of the most common and practical channel layouts for a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) since it ensures an effective and efficient removal of water produced in a cell with acceptable parasitic load. Water management is one of the key issues to improve the cell performance since at low operating temperatures in PEMFC, water vapor condensation starts easily and accumulates the liquid water droplet within the flow channels, thus affecting the chemical reactions and reducing the fuel cell performance. In this article, a comprehensive three dimensional numerical simulation is carried out to understand the water droplet mobility in a serpentine gas flow channel for a wide range of surface properties, inlet air velocities, droplet positions (center or off-center, bottom or top) and droplet sizes by deploying a finite volume based methodology. The liquid-gas interface is tracked following the volume-of-fluid (VOF) method. The droplet transport is found to be greatly influenced by the surface wettability properties, inlet velocities, number of droplets emerged and initial droplet positions. Super hydrophobic surface property is not always preferable for designing the gas flow channels. It depends upon the inlet velocity conditions, droplet positions, number of droplets and surface properties.