Bio-Inspired Design of Bipolar Plate Flow Fields for Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells

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Guo, Nannan
Leu, Ming C.
Wu, Maoliang

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University of Texas at Austin


The flow field of a bipolar plate distributes hydrogen and oxygen for polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells and removes the produced water from the fuel cells. It greatly influences the performance of fuel cells, especially regarding reduction of mass transport loss. Flow fields with good gas distribution and water removal capabilities reduce the mass transport loss, thus allowing higher power density. Inspired by natural structures such as veins in tree leaves and blood vessels in lungs, which efficiently feed nutrition from one central source to large areas and are capable of removing undesirable by-products, a mathematic model has been developed to optimize the flow field with minimal pressure drop, lowest energy dissipation, and uniform gas distribution. The model can be used to perform optimal flow field designs, leading to better fuel cell performance for different sizes and shapes of bipolar plates. Finite element modeling (FEM) based simulations and in-situ experiments were conducted to verify some of the flow field designs obtained using the developed mathematic model.


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