Understanding the performance of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells is critical to the water management in the fuel cell system. Low-humidity operating conditions present a complex interaction between dynamic behavior and water transport owing to different time scales of water transport mechanisms in the transient process. Toward understanding the effects of membrane properties on the dynamic behavior, this paper presents numerical simulations for a single channel PEM fuel cell undergoing changes in load, by subjecting the unit cell to step change in current. The objective is to elucidate the complex interaction between cell voltage response and water transport dynamics for various membrane properties, where the performance is critically related water content of the membrane. Detailed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations are carried out to show that step increase in current density leads to anode dryout due to electro-osmotic drag, and investigate its dependence on variations in membrane properties.

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