An important function of the gas delivery channels in Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells is the evacuation of liquid water created at the cathode. The resulting two-phase flow can become an obstacle to reactant transport and a source of parasitic losses. The present work examines the behavior of two-phase flow in 500 μm × 500 μm × 60 cm channels with distributed water injection through a porous carbon paper wall to gain understanding of the physics of flows relevant to fuel cell water management challenges. Flow regime maps based on local gas and liquid flow rates are constructed for experimental conditions corresponding to current densities between 0.5 and 1 A/cm2 and stoichiometric coefficients from 1 to 4. Flow structures are analyzed along the entire length of the channel. It is observed that slug flow is favored to plug flow at high air flow rates and low liquid flow rates. Stratified flow dominates at high liquid flow rates. Along the axial flow direction, the flow regime consistently transitions from intermittent to wavy to stable stratified flow. This progression is quantified using a parameter of flow progression which characterizes the degree of development of the two-phase flow toward the stable stratified condition. This parameter is discussed in relation to fuel cell operating conditions. It provides a metric for analyzing liquid water removal mechanisms in the cathode channels of PEM fuel cells.

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