Significance of Heat Dissipation in the Cathode Catalyst Layer on the Lifetime and Reliability of Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells
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To study the dissipation of heat generated due to the formation of pinholes that cause local hotspots in the catalyst layer of the Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell, a two-phase non-isothermal model has been developed by coupling Darcy’s law with heat transport. The domain under consideration is a section of the membrane electrode assembly with a half-channel and a half-rib. Five potential locations where a pinhole might form were analyzed: at the midplane of the channel, midway between the channel midplane and the channel wall, at the channel or rib wall, midway between the rib midplane and the channel wall, at the midplane of the rib. In the first part of this work, a preliminary thermal model was developed. The model was then refined to account for the two-phase effects. A sensitivity study was done to evaluate the effect of the following properties on the maximum temperature in the domain: Catalyst layer thermal conductivity, the Microporous layer thermal conductivity, the anisotropy factor of the Catalyst layer thermal conductivity, the Porous transport layer porosity, the liquid water distribution and the thickness of the membrane and porous layers. Accounting for the two-phase effects, a slight cooling effect was observed across all hotspot locations. The thermal properties of the catalyst layer were shown to have a limited impact on the maximum temperature in the catalyst layer of new fuel cells without pinhole. However, as hotspots start to appear, thermal properties play a more significant role in mitigating the thermal runaway.