In order to prevent membrane dryout in polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) during low humidity operation, it is essential to understand the fundamental phenomena of the water transport and reaction distribution at the anode side in an operating fuel cell. In this study, the water vapor distribution along the anode flow channel of a PEFC under low humidity conditions was quantitatively evaluated by using humidity test paper (HTP), and the effects of flow configuration and inlet humidification on the water distribution in the anode were investigated. HTP is a test paper for detecting water vapor of 20–90% RH, which is coated with a blue surface. This test paper was inserted between the anode electrode and separator in the transparent fuel cell, and the discoloration of HTP was directly visualized using a digital CCD camera. Furthermore, the temperature and current distributions in the anode electrode were measured using IR thermography and segmented cell structure concept. It was found that the water vapor concentration on the anode side increases immediately after the startup because of the back diffusion of the product water from the cathode to anode. In the case of the co-flow configuration with the dry anode and cathode inlets, the water vapor concentration increases monotonically along the anode flow channel. In addition, the anode water distribution affects the temperature and current distributions in the fuel cell largely. The local temperature and current density at the dry anode inlet are lower than those in the downstream region because of the membrane dehydration and low proton conductivity. On the other hand, in the case of the counter-flow pattern, the distributions of water concentration, temperature and current density have the maximum points in the midstream region. The counter-flow configuration is effective in improving the membrane hydration and alleviating the anode dryout.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.