International Journal of Energy Research, Vol.44, No.8, 6964-6980, 2020
Numerical investigation of drop dynamics in presence of wettability gradient inside a serpentine channel of proton exchange membrane fuel cell
Water management significantly affects the performance of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). Therefore, interest is felt to numerically investigate water droplet movement and slug formation inside the microchannel (gas) of PEMFC. Two important parameters-water coverage ratio and pressure drop have been studied in detail. A U-shaped geometry with a round corner is used for this purpose. 3D unsteady-state models are used to study the drop dynamics using commercial CFD software ANSYS FLUENT 18. For tracking of water drop dynamics, the volume of fluid model is used. Two different situations are simulated. In the first case, the investigation of hydrodynamics of the 0.4 mm drop adhered to the surface of the gas diffusion layer (GDL) has been done. In the second case, simulation of air-water slug flow has been done. GDL surfaces at upstream and downstream of bend are modified using user-defined functions, such that the GDL surface has a dynamic contact angle with respect to the direction of flow. This makes it a continuously hydrophilic surface at upstream and continuously hydrophobic surface at downstream with respect to the direction of flow. The impact of GDL wettability on water retention and removal has been discussed. It is noted that the presence of a gradient facilitates the removal of water drop adhered to the GDL surface. For the case of a suspended drop with an increase of 1 degrees/mm in the magnitude of the gradient, a decrease of 30% is observed in water coverage ratio and pressure drop observed in the channel. Such modified surfaces aids in the conversion of slugs to film at the downstream of bend that reduces maldistribution. The pressure fluctuations and average pressure drop are reduced by 66% when subjected to the aforementioned hybrid gradient.