A simple model is developed that determines the temperature distribution through a unit fuel cell with straight flow channels, in steady state operation. Using the large aspect ratio of the typical fuel cell geometry, the thermal model approximately decouples cross-plane thermal transport at each channel location. Using the fact that in-plane thermal conductivities are much larger than through-plane in typical bipolar plate construction, it is possible to further approximate the cross-plane thermal transport with a simple, one-dimensional model. We then consider the thermal coupling of several unit cells connected in series. In this way, we can simulate the effect of an anomalously hot cell in a stack environment. We take as inputs to the model the cell voltage and local current density, membrane resistance and condensation rates from a previously developed model. The thermal model outputs the average coolant temperature and the temperature distribution through the bipolar plates and membrane electrode assembly at each location down the channel. Although we are aware that there are significant coupling effects between the thermal distribution and performance, this is not taken into account in this study.

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