A proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) must maintain a balance between the hydration level required for efficient proton transfer and excess liquid water that can impede the flow of gases to the electrodes where the reactions take place. Therefore, it is critically important to understand the two-phase flow of liquid water combined with either the co-flowing hydrogen (anode) or air (cathode) streams. In this paper, we describe the design of an in-situ test apparatus that enables investigation of two-phase channel flow within PEMFCs, including the flow of water from the porous gas diffusion layer (GDL) into the channel gas flows; the flow of water within the bipolar plate channels themselves; and the dynamics of flow through multiple channels connected to common manifolds which maintain a uniform pressure differential across all possible flow paths. These two-phase flow effects have been studied at relatively low operating temperatures under steady-state conditions and during transient air purging sequences.

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