Most of the polymer electrolyte fuel cells now under research and development are referred to as stacks because of their stacked structure consisting of many cells and are aimed at automotive or domestic cogeneration system applications. However, a fuel cell with a much simpler structure and capable of operating at nearly ambient temperature and pressure is suitable for small-sized generator sets for home and outdoor use. In this study, detailed experimental analyses were conducted with a newly designed banded structure membrane fuel cell module consisting of 20 cells laid out in a plane in order to investigate the cause of a sudden power breakdown during long-term operation. The airflow near the cathode of a single cell was visualized with a particle image velocimetry system, as the cause of the sudden power breakdown was closely related to heat and mass transfer near the cathode.

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