Droplet and slug formation in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell flow channels: The role of interfacial forces

Carlos E. Colosqui, May J. Cheah, Ioannis G. Kevrekidis, Jay B. Benziger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

A microfluidic device is employed to emulate water droplet emergence from a porous electrode and slug formation in the gas flow channel of a PEM fuel cell. Liquid water emerges from a 50 μm pore forming a droplet; the droplet grows to span the entire cross-section of a microchannel and transitions into a slug which detaches and is swept downstream. Droplet growth, slug formation, detachment, and motion are analyzed using high-speed video images and pressure-time traces. Slug volume is controlled primarily by channel geometry, interfacial forces, and gravity. As water slugs move downstream, they leave residual micro-droplets that act as nucleation sites for the next droplet-to-slug transition. Residual liquid in the form of micro-droplets results in a significant decrease in slug volume between the very first slug formed in an initially dry channel and the ultimate "steady-state" slug. A physics-based model is presented to predict slug volumes and pressure drops for slug detachment and motion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10057-10068
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Volume196
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Keywords

  • PEM fuel cell
  • Pressure drop
  • Slug flow
  • Two-phase flow
  • Water management

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