This paper presents a study on the transport phenomena related to gas flow through fuel cell micro-channels, specifically the impact of dimensional scale on the order of 100 microns and below. Especially critical is the ability to experimentally verify model predictions, and this is made efficiently possible by the use of structural photopolymer (SU-8) to directly fabricate functional fuel cell micro-channels. The design and analysis components of this investigation apply 3-D multi-physics modeling to predict cell performance under micro-channel conditions. Interestingly, the model predicts that very small channels (specifically 100 microns and below) result in a significantly higher peak power density than larger counterparts. SU-8 micro-channels with different feature sizes have been integrated into fuel cell prototypes and tested for comparison against model predictions. The results not only demonstrate that the SU-8 channels with metal current collector show quite appreciable performance, but also provide experimental verification of the merits of channel miniaturization. As predicted, the performance in terms of peak power density increases as the feature size of the channel decreases, even though the pressure drop is higher in the more narrow channels. So it has been observed both theoretically and experimentally that cell performance shows an improving trend with micro-channels, and design optimization for miniature fuel cell provides a powerful method for increasing power density.

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