Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells are favored in many applications due to their simplicity and relatively high power density. However, there has been a lack of understandings of the fundamental mechanisms of assembly and manufacturing induced phenomena and their influence on performance and durability. This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of assembly pressure induced phenomena in PEM fuel cells using multi-physics based modeling. A finite-element-based structural and mass-transfer model was developed by integrating mechanical deformation, mass transfer resistance, and electrical contact resistance to study the effects of assembly pressure and the fuel cell overall performance. Contact resistance, inhomogeneous deformation of membrane and GDL, electrochemical analysis were simulated. The fuel cell performance was predicted and an optimal assembly pressure was identified through this multi-physics model. Results show that PEM fuel cell performance first increases gradually to a maximum and then decreases with further assembly pressure increase. The influence of temperature and humidity on cell performance was also investigated.

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