"Fan the flame with water". Current ignition and front propagation in pem fuel cells

Yannick De Decker, Jay B. Benziger, Yannis G. Kevrekidis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cells exhibit complex non-linear dynamics resulting from an exponential When the membrane water content was greater than a critical value the fuel cell current increased to a high value corresponding to an ignited state. The fuel cell current can be ignited by injection of water into the fuel cell; this hydrates the membrane which increases the current and autohumidifies the fuel cell. Spatio-temporal dynamics have been followed in the flow channels of a PEM fuel cell reactor. Co-current flow of the hydrogen and oxygen results in current ignition at the outlet of the flow channel, followed by a wave of high current density propagating toward the inlet. Counter-current flow of the hydrogen and the oxygen results in ignition at the center of the flow channels. A beautiful analogy can be drawn between water production and removal in a PEM fuel cell and heat production and removal in exothermic chemical reactors. This is an abstract of a paper presented at the AIChE Annual Meeting (San Francisco, CA 11/12-17/2006).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2006 AIChE Annual Meeting
StatePublished - 2006
Event2006 AIChE Annual Meeting - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Nov 12 2006Nov 17 2006

Publication series

NameAIChE Annual Meeting, Conference Proceedings


Other2006 AIChE Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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