Water management still remains a challenge for proton exchange membrane fuel cells. Byproduct water formed in the cathode side of the membrane is wicked to the air supply channel through the gas diffusion layer. Water emerges into the air supply channel as droplets, which are then removed by the air stream. When the rate of water production is higher than the rate of water removal, droplets start to accumulate and coalesce with each other forming slugs consequently clogging the channels and causing poor fuel cell performance. It has been shown in previous experiments that rendering the channels hydrophobic or super-hydrophobic cause water droplets to be removed faster, not allowing time to coalesce, and therefore making channels less prone to flooding. In this numerical study we analyze water droplet growth and detachment from a simulated hydrophobic air supply channel inside a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. In these numerical simulations the Navier-Stokes equations are solved using the SIMPLER method coupled with the level set technique in order to track the liquid-vapor interface. The effect of the gravity field acting in the −y, −x, and +x directions was examined for an array of water flow rates and air flow rates. Detachment times and diameters were computed. The results showed no significant effect of the gravity field acting in the three different directions as expected since the Bond and Capillary numbers are relatively small. The maximum variations in detachment time and diameter were found to be 8.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively, between the horizontal channel and the vertical channel with gravity acting in the negative x direction, against the air flow. Droplet detachment was more significantly affected by the air and water flow rates.

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