Fuel cells have been very much studied in the last few years as promising future energy conversion systems. In fact, these systems have a number of advantages with respect to more traditional energy conversion systems, such as, for instance, higher potential efficiency, flexibility for distributed generation, and reduced emissions. Accurate and physically representative numerical models are essential for the future development of energy conversion systems based on fuel cell technology. In the present paper, a general and detailed numerical model is proposed, in which all the quantities of interest are calculated locally, on the basis of general governing equations for the phenomena involved. The model proposed in this work is based on the solution of the appropriate set of partial differential equations that describe the phenomena that occur in the different parts of the fuel cell: 1) anodic compartment, which includes fuel channel, electrode and catalyst layer; 2) electrolyte; and 3) cathode compartment. To solve the momentum, energy and species conservation equations in the anodic and cathodic compartments, a finite element procedure is employed, based on the Characteristic Based Split (CBS) algorithm. The CBS, thanks to its generality and modularity, is able to successfully predict fuel cell performances. The results obtained from the simulations show a good agreement with other data available in the literature.

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