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ESI North America Fuel Cell Simulation Advancements Presented to Department of Energy

By DE Editors

Enhancements in the simulation of automotive fuel cell performance were recently presented to the Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen Program and Vehicle Technologies Program Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting.  This program seeks to improve the ability to use simulation to conduct a detailed study of how various fuel cell component structures and properties affect the gas and water transport in Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells.  Engineers from ESI North America have been part of this project during the last three years.

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells can be utilized as a zero-emission power source for many transportation applications.  The most critical technical challenges facing the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles are cost reduction, durability, water management, freeze tolerance, and power density. 

“Virtual prototyping using advanced multi-physics simulation to understand the complex interactions of physical phenomenon is a required supporting technology to bring commercially viable fuel cell vehicles to the mass market,” says Joseph Strelow, director and chief engineer of Government Programs at ESI North America.  “The electrochemical reactions, the concentrations of performance degrading pollutants, and their impact on the durability of cell structures cannot be measured directly in a functioning fuel cell.  Available simulation options have lacked the ability to represent the precise physics necessary for further advancements in performance.  We are proud to be working with our industry and academic partners, with the support of the Department of Energy, to resolve these fundamental issues.”

The activities presented included the results of additional experimental validation of the ESI water transport models in the gas diffusion layers, channels, and across interfaces.  This improved understanding of water transport allowed new concepts to remove water and control its distribution to be evaluated.  Further integration of the water management simulations with existing electrochemistry and heat transfer models was undertaken as well, creating a solution to study increasing power densities and transient performance. 

This four-year project was started in 2007 with a total budget of $6.4 million. The work is a collaboration of seven technologies, industrial, and academic partners.  Today was the final mid-program review. The project is expected to be completed in May 2011.

For more information, visit ESI.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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