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A lung-inspired approach to scalable and robust fuel cell design

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Abstract

A lung-inspired approach is employed to overcome reactant homogeneity issues in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. The fractal geometry of the lung is used as the model to design flow-fields of different branching generations, resulting in uniform reactant distribution across the electrodes and minimum entropy production of the whole system. 3D printed, lung-inspired flow field based PEFCs with N = 4 generations outperform the conventional serpentine flow field designs at 50% and 75% RH, exhibiting a ∼20% and ∼30% increase in performance (at current densities higher than 0.8 A cm−2) and maximum power density, respectively. In terms of pressure drop, fractal flow-fields with N = 3 and 4 generations demonstrate ∼75% and ∼50% lower values than conventional serpentine flow-field design for all RH tested, reducing the power requirements for pressurization and recirculation of the reactants. The positive effect of uniform reactant distribution is pronounced under extended current-hold measurements, where lung-inspired flow field based PEFCs with N = 4 generations exhibit the lowest voltage decay (∼5 mV h−1). The enhanced fuel cell performance and low pressure drop values of fractal flow field design are preserved at large scale (25 cm2), in which the excessive pressure drop of a large-scale serpentine flow field renders its use prohibitive.

Graphical abstract: A lung-inspired approach to scalable and robust fuel cell design

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Publication details

The article was received on 31 Jul 2017, accepted on 11 Oct 2017 and first published on 25 Oct 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7EE02161E
Citation: Energy Environ. Sci., 2017, Advance Article
  • Open access: Creative Commons BY license
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    A lung-inspired approach to scalable and robust fuel cell design

    P. Trogadas, J. I. S. Cho, T. P. Neville, J. Marquis, B. Wu, D. J. L. Brett and M.-O. Coppens, Energy Environ. Sci., 2017, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/C7EE02161E

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