The water balance in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells still remains a topic of much investigation in order to maintain satisfactory cell performance. One specific water management issue relates to the gas-liquid flows that occur when water enters the reactant flow field channels, which are typically microchannels or minichannels. Due to its unique water introduction, the Lockhart-Martinelli (LM) approach has been revised for its applicability in predicting the two-phase pressure drop in these channels where water emerges from a gas diffusion layer perpendicular to the direction of gas flow. In the revised LM approach, the Chisholm parameter C is found not to vary strongly as a function of key fuel cell operating variables (relative humidity, temperature, materials, gas stoichiometry), whereas it does vary as a function of flow regime and current density. A new flow regime map was proposed based on all pressure drop data collected from active fuel cells, where an accumulating flow regime is presented in addition to single-phase, film/droplet, and slug flow. The proposed accumulating regime is linked to water droplet dynamics, namely, water droplet emergence, growth, and detachment. A force balance approach shows when detachment will occur, which clarifies the bounds of the accumulating regime in terms of superficial gas velocity (gas stoichiometry ratio) and liquid velocity (current density). The balance considers different wetting scenarios in the channels and a range of superficial velocities of importance to PEM fuel cells.

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