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Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3

rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
1


EXPERIMENTAL INVESTIGATION ON PEM FUEL CELL
PERFORMANCE CHARACTERISTICS

Rami S. El-Emam, Ahmed M. Hamed
1
, Mahmoud M. Awad
2
, Mohamed A. Tolba
3

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt
elemam@hotmail.com





Abstract An experimental study on the performance
characteristics of proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell
(PEMFC) has been carried out. The study has been
performed on a single PEMFC unit with an active area of 25
cm
2
using two different cell configurations. The test system
has been established to control each of the temperature and
the relative humidity of the cathode feeding gas. Supplied
reactants flow rates have been controlled during the test.
Also, an electrical load bank has been designed to control
the load that the fuel cell will experience as will as to
measure the voltage and current produced by the fuel cell at
different loads. Obtained results show that, operating
conditions affect the fuel cell performance significantly. Cell
performance is improved as oxidizer relative humidity is
increased and its temperature is decreased. The reactants
utilization was better with increasing the oxidizer relative
humidity; until flooding occurrence. It was observed that the
serpentine/ straight open channels cell configuration suited
using air more than oxygen. The cell orientation was also
investigated and the upward position showed better
performance compared to the downward and horizontal
position which gave lower performance.

Keywords fuel cell, humidity, PEMFC.

INTRODUCTION

Fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device that
produces electricity directly from chemical energy, and the
by-products are only water and heat. It is seen by many
pioneers that fuel cell is the solution to a whole range of
environmental challenges, such as global warming and
harmful levels of local pollutants. The Proton Exchange
Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) is regarded as one of the
most promising alternative electric power generation method
especially for sub-megawatt scale applications mainly
required in most of the developing countries due to its low-
temperature operation, relative tolerance for impurities, and
high power-density.
In recent years, tremendous effort in the research and
development of PEMFC has been concentrated on the
operation variables to regulate the cell performance [1-7].
Water management is one of the most important PEMFC
aspects.
Figure 1 shows a scheme of the water transport
processes in the PEMFC. The main water transport
processes in the membrane are electro-osmotic drag and
back diffusion. They affect the water balance in a PEMFC
and determine the membrane hydration. Optimum water
balance between the anode and cathode is crucial for
achieving good cell performance because the water level in a
fuel cell strongly affects not only the membrane properties,
but also reactant transport and electrode reaction kinetics [5].
Many papers were concerned with understanding the
mechanisms of water transport and exploring its effect on
cell performance [1,2,5,8-12].


FIGURE 1
WATER MOVEMENTS THROUGH THE PEM ELECTROLYTE

________________________________________________________
1
Ahmed M. Hamed, Mansoura University, amhamed@mans.edu.eg
2
Mahmoud M. Awad, Mansoura University.
3
Mohamed A. Tolba, Mansoura University.

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
2

El-Emam et al. [1] experimentally studied a single fuel
cell of 25 cm
2
active area using air and hydrogen as
reactants. Serpentine/straight open channels cell
configuration was used for anode and cathode plates,
respectively. They studied the effect of air temperature and
humidity effects on the cell performance using fully dry
hydrogen. The results showed that the cell performance was
improved as cathode air relative humidity increased as well
as its temperature decreased. Lee et al. [2] showed how
performance changes with humidity and temperature of gas
streams; they observed the cell oscillatory behavior at low
humidity. Experimental results helped in estimating flooding
rates at very high humidity conditions. Santarelli and
Torchio [3] experimentally studied of the effects of cell
temperature on the performance of single PEMFC using
saturated and dry reactants. Operating pressure was also
studied under the operating temperature of 50
o
C. Amirinejad
et al. [4] experiments were concerned with individual effect
of operating pressure, temperature and humidity on single
cell performance. Saleh et al. [5] investigated the
symmetrical and asymmetrical relative humidity effect on
cell performance and its dependence on cell temperature.
Kim and Hong [6] studied humidity and temperature effect
for PEMFC stack. Its performance was more affected by
cathode humidity, Also they observed that stack
performance was less influenced with temperature than
humidity. Chu and Jiang [7] comparatively investigated
single cell and 30 cell stack performance using various
membranes under different cell temperatures and humidity.
Hyun and Kim [10] studied experimentally the effect of
external humidification on cell performance. i was found to
be affected by the anode side humidifier temperature more
that by the cathode side humidifier temperature.
The cell performance using different flow fields were
also experimentally investigated [13,14]. Yan et al. [13]
demonstrated the influences of various operating conditions
on cell performance with conventional and interdigitated
flow fields. Su et al. [14] studied the flooding effects with
different cathode flow fields. Flooding has been noticed to
typically occur in the channels corners. The design of path in
the flow field should be fitted to the streamline pattern in
order to decrease the corner effect.
The experimental investigation presented in this paper is
devoted to characterize the behavior of a single PEMFC
under different operating conditions. Experiments were
concerned with the cathode feeding gas temperature and
humidity. Oxygen and air were used as oxidizers, while dry
hydrogen was the cell fuel. Two different cell configurations
were assembled and integrated into the test stand.

EXPERIMENTAL WORK

A single PEMFC unit was assembled to carry out the
experimental investigation. A schematic diagram and a
photo for the test system are illustrated in Figs. 2 and 3,
respectively.


FIGURE 2
SCHEMATIC DIAGRAM OF THE INTEGRATED FUEL CELL TEST SYSTEM



FIGURE 3
PHOTOGRAPHING OF THE INTEGRATED FUEL CELL TEST SYSTEM

The integrated fuel cell test system contains the following
items:
PEM Fuel Cell: A single cell stack of PEMFC was
prepared to carry out the required experiments. A 5-
layer membrane electrode assembly (MEA) of 25 cm
2

active area, self humidifying type, with Nafion 112
membrane was used. The catalyst loading are 1.0 mg
Pt/cm
2
and 0.2 mg Pt/cm
2
for the cathode and anode
electrodes, respectively. Serpentine/serpentine and
serpentine/straight open channels configurations were
used for anode and cathode flow channels, respectively.
Fig. 4 show the used graphite plates that house the gases
flow channels. Silicon gaskets were used to provide a
gas seal between the flow channels and the membrane.
Flow-meters
Multimeters
Fuel cell unit
Load bank
Hygrometer
Temp. recorder

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
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Current collectors were made of copper plates. The end
plates were fastened together to provide mechanical
compression and connection of the fuel cell components
to seal the cell. A schematic arrangement of the used
components is shown in Fig. 5.










FIGURE 4
STRAIGHT OPEN CHANNELS AND SERPENTINE GRAPHITE PLATE




FIGURE 5
SCHEMATIC ARRANGEMENT OF SINGLE CELL COMPONENTS

The pre-listed items were assembled carefully with
four bolts connecting the end plates. The torque exerted
on the boltsas the cell components were clamped
togetherwould affect the thickness and porosity of the
gas diffusion layer (GDL). Generally, low torque might
cause lower conductivity of the GDL, while high torque
might increase the conductivity for electrons, but the
porosity will be badly affected. The compression effects
depend on the gasket thickness and the degree to which
it was compressed. The optimum value of compression
had to be measured using pressure sensing films in
between the cell parts [15]. Also, the thicknesses of the
GDL should be measured after compression to be within
the recommended ranges.
Hydrogen Fuel System: The Hydrogen was feed from
a hydrogen storage bottle (1). The pressure regulator (2)
was used to reduce the flow pressure to be just slightly
over the atmospheric pressure. The hydrogen flow rate
was controlled through needle control valve (3) and was
measured using flow meter [OMEGA, model 1355] (4).
The maximum and minimum flow rates of the flow
meter that used to measure the supplied hydrogen flow
rate are 147.8 ml/min air and 9.3 ml/min air, and it was
calibrated to obtain hydrogen flow rate values at the
operating conditions. Hydrogen was feed at 25
o
C and
fully dry.
Oxidizer System: Oxygen was feed through oxygen
bottle (5). A pressure regulator (6) was used to reduce
the flow pressure to be just slightly over the
atmospheric pressure. The flow rate was controlled by
needle control valves (9,11). Flow rate was measured
using a direct reading flow-meter [AALBORG] (12),
with the range of 250 ml/min of oxygen. A heat
exchanger (7) was used to rise the oxygen temperature.
Oxygen was flowing through a coiled copper tube
immersed in heated water. The heater is of three heating
levels controlled by a thermostat. Temperature is
measured by a temperature thermocouple located on the
feeding line just before the cell entrance. During the
experimental tests, oxygen temperature was varied and
then kept constant for each test. Three values of
temperatures were investigated; 25
o
C, 35
o
C and 45
o
C.
For the humidification process, oxygen was bubbled
into de-ionized water in humidification chamber (8) for
humidifying purpose. This was sufficient to reach the
required humidification values in the low temperature
cases, but this simplified humidification method wasn't
effective when oxygen was heated up to 45
o
C, even
with heating the water in the humidifying chamber. A
steamer was used to humidify the oxygen to the desired
relative humidity values at the temperature of 45
o
C.
Amount of steam was allowed to mix with oxygen flow
until it reached the desired humidification limit. A
hygrometer (10) with a temperature thermocouple is
used to measure the relative humidity and temperature
of the feeding gas. Its sensing probe was fixed in the
nearest point before cell entrance. For the
serpentine/open straight channels configuration, air was
also used as oxidizer.
Load Circuit: An electrical load bank (13) was
designed and constructed to be used. Changing the
resistance of the load circuit (0.02~5) allows
measuring voltage and current at different values of the
cell load, hence, characterizing the performance of a
fuel cell through out the polarization curve (Voltage vs.
Current density). Two auto ranging digital multimeters
(14,15) were used to measure current (mA) and voltage
(mV) of the cell electric power.

Before each experiment, the fuel cell unit should be
purged with nitrogen gas flowing at about 0.2 ml/min for
about two minuets for both anode and cathode sides to
remove any condensed water [16]. Then the hydrogen and
oxygen flows are controlled to the specified values using the
flow meters, the fuel cell is then left operating for about 15
minutes at open circuit condition before running
experimental measurements, where the open circuit voltage
Teflon
Gasket
5 Layer
MEA
End
Plate
Collector
Plate
Graphite
Plate
Graphite
Plate
End
Plate
Collector
Plate
Teflon
Gasket
Flow inlet

Flow inlet
Flow
inlet
Flow
outlet

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
4

is measured before loading the cell by 5 ohm load resistance.
Then the fuel cell is subjected to change in the load
resistance in a gradual decreasing procedure, causing current
to increase and the voltage to decrease. At each value of
resistance, the cell voltage and current should be recorded
after about 3 minuets, to allow the fuel cell voltage to
stabilize. The load resistance is to be decreased gradually
until the fuel cell voltage drops to a certain level. Also,
shaking the cell before taking the measurements of different
experiments was done, as it was recommended by Mughal
[19].

Experimental Calculations:

The reactants utilization and cell efficiency at maximum
power were represented in the results. The utilization is
known as the fraction of the amount of reactant consumed to
the amount of reactant totally supplied. So, the hydrogen and
oxygen utilization can be represented as follows [17]:
for hydrogen, U
H
= V
HC
/ V
HS
= 7.506 * I / V
HS
(1)
for oxygen, U
O
= V
OC
/ V
OS
= 3.753 * I / V
OS
(2)
where; V
HC
,V
OC
: consumed hydrogen and oxygen in the
reaction, respectively (ml/min)
V
HS
,V
OS
: amount of supplied hydrogen and oxygen,
respectively (ml/min)

Also, the cell efficiency can be determined based on the
measured cell voltage using the following formula [18]:
Cell
Cell
ideal theor
Cell
V
V
E
V
675 . 0
83 . 0 / 23 . 1 /

(3)
where: V
Cell
is the measured cell voltage, E
theor
is the
theoretical voltage and equals to 1.23 V,
ideal


is the ideal
efficiency which equals 83%. These values were estimated
for a reversible cell operating on pure oxygen and hydrogen
at 1 bar and 25
o
C [18].


RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Performance with Serpentine/Serpentine Configuration:

In this section, hydrogen flow rate is kept constant at 20
ml/min, and in a fully dry state at 25
o
C. Oxygen flow rate is
also kept constant at the same flow rate of hydrogen, with
different relative humidity and temperature. Both feeding
pressures of oxygen and hydrogen are kept constant slightly
over atmospheric pressure.
Effect of Oxidizer Humidity: External humidification
is necessary to optimize the cell performance. Figures
6~8 (a,b,c) illustrate the effect of cathode air relative
humidity on polarization and power density vs. current
density curves as well as the cell efficiency vs. power
density curves. The results were obtained with oxygen
feed to the cathode at relative humidity values of 40%,
60% and 80% and also fully dry, at temperature of
25
o
C, 35
o
C and 45
o
C, respectively.
The results in Fig. 6 (a,b,c) were obtained for the
case of 25
o
C. Figure 6(a) reveals that the cell
performance is better for using humidified oxygen than
for the dry flow, as the membrane is directly affected by
the humidity and ohmic losses increase with membrane
dehydration. It's also clear that the performance
increased gradually as the relative humidity of the
cathode increased; dry, 40% then 60% RH. It falls to a
worse performance at 80% RH, although it gave higher
open circuit voltage as the reaction rate is higher at no
load. This can be because of the increase of the amount
of liquid water with the relative humidity. Accordingly,
the pores in the porous media were obstructed by liquid
water at the cathode side, causing a reduction in the
amount of reaction gas to the catalyst layer. Therefore,
the performance of the cell gradually decreases, and
these results agree with that of Lee and Chu [11]. From
Fig. 6(b), identical power densities were obtained in the
low current density range, however, with the higher
relative humidity cases; the power density increasing
rate increased dramatically but not for 80% RH, as it's
clearly shown in figure. After the power density reached
a maximum value; it decreases steadily. From the
relation of gained power and the cell efficiency, Fig.
6.1(c); it was found that more power was obtained at the
same cell efficiency with increasing the oxygen relative
humidity from dry to 40% and then to 60%.
Figure 7 (a,b,c) represents the polarization, power
density vs. current density and cell efficiency vs. power
density when oxygen is fed at 35
o
C with 40%, 60%,
80% RH and dry conditions. Better performance was
achieved with increasing the oxygen relative humidity
until it reaches 80% RH. This can be because the
cathode flow channels and gas diffusion pores might
have flooded with water causing a lake of cathode gas at
the reaction area.
Figure 8 (a,b,c) represents the three performance
curves for the cases when oxygen is fed at 45
o
C with
40%, 60%, 80% RH and dry conditions. The
performance increased with the RH increased from 40%
to 60%, where the higher temperature makes the
membrane more active, and water evaporation is
accelerated, so more humidification is acquired.
However, the performance decreased; slightly lower
than that at 40% RH with feeding oxygen at 80% RH,
where flooding effect might became lower at higher
temperature.
Briefly, these results showed that using dry oxygen
resulted in a low cell performance. This can be
explained by the lack of water vapor in the inlet gases.
This initially caused dehydration of the fuel cell
membrane, which ultimately resulted in a degradation of
fuel cell power output. At 40%RH the performance was
comparatively enhanced, but still low. Better
performance was observed with a medium relative
humidity (60%) for oxygen, at all tested temperatures,

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
5

which agrees with results of Evans [12]. On the other
hand, at 80% oxygen relative humidity; the performance
decreased. The increase of liquid water droplets might
have resulted in flooding of the reaction sites and also
caused a drop in the power output. This effect was
evident at lower temperature.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
T=25
o
C
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH
a) Polarization Curve


0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
3
6
9
12
15
18
21
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)b) Power Density vs.
Current Density
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH
T=25
o
C


0 4 8 12 16 20 24
Power Density (mW/cm
2
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
C
e
l
l

E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

%
T=25
o
C
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH
c) Cell Efficiency
vs. Power Density

FIGURE 6
EFFECT OF RELATIVE HUMIDITY OF 7OXYGEN AT 25
O
C ON THE
PERFORMANCE CURVES OF THE FUEL CELL
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
a) Polarization Curve
T=35
o
C
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
4
8
12
16
20
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
b) Power Density vs.
Current Density
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH
T=35
o
C

0 4 8 12 16 20
Power Density (mW/cm
2
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
C
e
l
l

E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

%
c) Cell Efficiency
vs. Power Density
T=35
o
C
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH

F IGURE 7
EFFECT OF RELATIVE HUMIDITY OF OXYGEN AT 35
O
C ON THE
PERFORMANCE CURVES OF THE FUEL

Figure 9 represents the reactants utilization at
maximum power vs. oxygen relative humidity at
different oxygen feeding temperatures of 25
o
C, 35
o
C
and 45
o
C. The dependence of the utilization at
maximum power on the cathode air relative humidity
and temperature is clearly evident. Increasing oxygen
relative humidity caused a reduction of reactants
utilization till 80% RH where flooding occurrence
increases at lower temperature. Also, rising oxygen
feeding temperature resulted in a lower utilization but

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
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for at 80% RH where the effect was reversed. At 60%
RH, reactants utilization always showed higher values.
Figure 10 shows the cell efficiency at maximum
power vs. oxygen relative humidity for oxygen being
feed at 25
o
C, 35
o
C and 45
o
C. For the three cases of
temperature, as shown in the figure; values of
efficiency at maximum power are higher at 60%
cathode oxygen relative humidity than at dry and
40%RH, and it's lower at 80% RH where cell
performance decreased as illustrated before as a result
of channel flooding because of excess water content.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
T=45
o
C
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH
T=45
o
C
b) Power Density vs.
Current Density

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
Power Density (mW/cm
2
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
C
e
l
l

E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

%
T=45
o
C
60%RH
80%RH
0%RH
40%RH
c) Cell Efficiency
vs. Power Density

FIGURE 8
EFFECT OF RELATIVE HUMIDITY OF OXYGEN AT 45
O
C ON THE
PERFORMANCE CURVES OF THE FUEL CELL
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Oxygen Relative Humidity %
6
12
18
24
30
36
42
48
54
60
H
y
d
r
o
g
e
n

U
t
i
l
i
z
a
t
i
o
n

a
t

m
a
x

P
o
w
e
r

%
3
6
9
12
15
18
21
24
27
30
O
x
y
g
e
n

U
t
i
l
i
z
a
t
i
o
n

a
t

m
a
x

P
o
w
e
r

%
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C

FIGURE 9
REACTANTS UTILIZATION AT MAX POWER DENSITY VS. OXYGEN
RELATIVE HUMIDITY AT DIFFERENT OXYGEN FEEDING TEMPERATURES

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Oxygen Relative Humidity %
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y

a
t

m
a
x

P
o
w
e
r

%
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C
12.35
8.77
3.69
16.6 mW/cm
2
17.69
20.85
13.792
14.96
17.7 mW/cm
2
7.56
9.085
11.17

FIGURE 10
CELL EFFICIENCY AT MAX POWER DENSITY VS. OXYGEN RELATIVE
HUMIDITY AT DIFFERENT OXYGEN FEEDING TEMPERATURES
(VALUES OF MAX POWER DENSITY ARE SHOWN )

Effect of Oxidizer Temperature: Figures 11 to 14
show the effect of changing oxygen temperature for
different values of cathode relative humidity on
PEMFC performance. It's represented in the form of
cell polarization curves and power density vs. current
density curves. Increased temperature can accelerate
water evaporation, resulting in a reduction of water
retention causing negative impact on the cell
performance. However, increased temperature can also
increase the kinetics of both oxygen reaction and
hydrogen oxidation reactions, resulting in a higher
performance. The results showed a good agreement
with El-Emam et al. [1].
Figure 11 show the effect of increasing temperature
on the fuel cell performance when feeding both gases in
a fully dry condition. Cell performance reduction
occurred with increasing oxidizer temperature with the

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
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same trend of performance, this might be caused due to
the more dehydration of the Nafion membrane which
works in increasing the cell ohmic losses. The water
retention in MEA was stronger at 25
o
C than at 35 and
45
o
C, but the kinetics was slower at 25
o
C.
The results in Fig. 12 represent the performance for
the case where oxygen is feed at 40% RH. The results
showed that increasing temperature of cathode feeding
gas at this relatively low relative humidity caused a
reduction in the performance of the cell. This might be a
result of lowering the water retention in the gas, so the
membrane is left dryer.
The performance curves presented in Fig. 13 show
that at moderate relative humidity of 60%; the
performance is still better at lower oxidizer temperature.
Also from the polarization curves, it's shown that the
concentration losses appear to increase with the higher
temperature; this might be a result of the increase of
reaction rate which caused a loss in oxygen
concentration.
The case for using oxygen of 80% RH is shown in
Fig. 14. Increasing the oxygen feeding temperature
improved the performance. In low temperature; the
higher water content might have resulted in a blockage
of the diffusion layer pores. The fall in performance can
be a cause of flood occurrence in the cathode serpentine
channels; mainly the serpentine bends.

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C
at 0%RH
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
at 0%RH
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C

FIGURE 11
EFFECT OF CATHODE FEEDING GAS TEMPERATURE AT DRY CONDITION
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C
at 40%RH
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
4
8
12
16
20
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
at 40%RH
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C

FIGURE 12
EFFECT OF CATHODE FEEDING GAS TEMPERATURE AT 40% RH

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
at 60%RH
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
5
10
15
20
25
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
at 60%RH
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C

FIGURE 13
EFFECT OF CATHODE FEEDING GAS TEMPERATURE AT 60% RH


Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
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5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
8

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C
at 80%RH

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
4
8
12
16
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
at 80%RH
25
o
C
35
o
C
45
o
C

FIGURE 14
EFFECT OF CATHODE FEEDING GAS TEMPERATURE AT 80% RH

Effect of Cell Orientation: The cell with the previous
configuration of serpentine/serpentine channels was
tested in three different positions, vertical upward,
vertical downward and horizontal position. Fig. 15
shows cell performance on the polarization and current
density vs. power density curves, for the case when
oxygen was feed at 25
o
C and 40% RH with different
positions of the cell. Hydrogen is kept dry at 25
o
C.The
curves shows that the upward direction of flow of gases
is better that the two other cases. The downward
position makes the water droplets exist in flow channels
easy to leave as the flow direction is in the its gravity
force. In the condition of relatively low relative
humidity, this might cause membrane to be dry. On the
other hand, for the upward position, the gases flow
direction is opposite to water droplets gravity force.
This help the membrane hydration, so its work be more
efficient causing higher performance. For the horizontal
position, it's harder to remove excess water from the
flow channels, mainly with the low gases flow rate. So,
flooding occurs and the performance decreases. This
might be different at higher relative humidity for the
case of downward, where enough water might exist to
prevent membrane dehydration.

0 20 40 60 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
Upward
Horizontal
Downward

0 20 40 60 80
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
5
10
15
20
25
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)Upward
Horizontal
Downward

FIGURE 15
EFFECT OF CELL ORIENTATION ON CELL PERFORMANCE

Performance with Serpentine/Straight Channels
Configuration:

Effect of Using Oxygen Compared to Air: Oxygen as
well as air (21%O
2
) was used as the cathode supply
gases. The results are illustrated in Figs. 15&16. The
cathode oxidizer flow rate was kept constant at 220
ml/min for oxygen as well as for air, while dry
hydrogen was feed at 40 ml/min and 60 ml/min. The
temperature and relative humidity for cathode feeding
gas were 20
o
C and 40%, respectively.
Generally, it can be shown that better performance
is clearly obtained when pure oxygen is fed to the
cathode instead of air. The open circuit voltage reached
904 mV and 982 mV, for pure oxygen, while for air it
was limited 885 mV and 882 mV, for hydrogen flow
rates of 40 ml/min and 60 ml/min, respectively. Cells
that run on air suffer from reduced thermodynamics
potential where decreasing of oxygen concentration
decreases the theoretical cell voltage, E
thero
, therefore
reduces oxygen reduction kinetics and exacerbates mass
transport limitations. The activation losses are reduced
when pure oxygen is used, as the reaction rate
increased. Generally, power density shows steady
increase with the current density. But as the current
density increases, the increasing rate of the power

Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
rd
5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
9

density is lowered significantly for the case of air rather
than for oxygen usage.

0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
Fig. 6.1 Polarization and power density curves using pure oxygen
and air at 220 ml/min, at 40 ml/min hydrogen, 20
o
C and 40%RH

0 40 80 120 160 200 240
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
20
40
60
80
100
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
20
o
C,40%RH
100% O
2

21% O
2
(Air)

FIGURE 15
PERFORMANCE CURVES AT 220 ML/MIN FOR CATHODE FLOW RATE AND
40 ML/MIN FOR HYDROGEN FLOW RATE

0 40 80 120 160 200
Current Denisty (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
Fig. 6.2 Polarization and power density curves using pure
oxygen and air at 220 ml/min, at 60 ml/min hydrogen, 20
o
C and 40%RH
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y


(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
20
o
C,40%RH
100% O
2

21% O
2
(Air)

FIGURE 16
PERFORMANCE CURVES AT 220 ML/MIN FOR CATHODE FLOW RATE AND
60 ML/MIN FOR HYDROGEN FLOW RATE

Effect of Oxidizer Relative Humidity: For the same
cell with straight open channels plate for cathode side
and serpentine for the anode side, at oxygen flow rate of
220 ml/min, and dry hydrogen at 20
o
C of 40 ml/min, the
relative humidity of oxygen flow was varied at values of
40%, 60% and 80%. Figure 17 shows that increasing the
oxygen RH caused an increase in the open circuit
voltage (990, 935 and 904 mV for 80%, 60% and 40%
RH, respectively). This can be because of the increase
of protonic conductivity of the membrane with the more
hydration. Also, at low current density region, the
activation losses decreased with increasing oxygen RH
as an increase in reaction rate is expected. The
performance at 40% and 60% RH was so close. But for
80%RH, the cell behavior decreased rapidly with
increasing the load. Also, the limiting current density
decreased, and that means a high concentration
overpotential occurrence. This is a result of the flooding
of gas diffusion layer pores with the excess water that
produced from the humidity carried with the cathode
flow rate summed to the quantity produced from the
electrochemical reaction inside the cell.

Cathode Humiditfication effect, for 100%O
2
of
220 mL/min, and 40 ml/min H
2
0 40 80 120 160 200 240
Current Density (mA/cm
2
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
C
e
l
l

V
o
l
t
a
g
e

(
m
V
)
0
20
40
60
80
100
P
o
w
e
r

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
m
W
/
c
m
2
)
40%RH
60%RH
80%RH
FIGURE 17
POLARIZATION AND POWER DENSITY CURVES FOR DIFFERENT OXYGEN
RELATIVE HUMIDITY

An error analysis for the calculated values and measured
parameters was performed. The uncertainties in the
measured operating voltage, current, flow rates, relative
humidity and temperature were 0.3%, 0.8%, 2.5%,
3.75% & 0.3145%, respectively. The uncertainties in the
calculated values were 0.855%, 0.3% & 1.48% in power
density, cell efficiency and reactants utilization, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Based on the obtained results, the following conclusions can
be drawn:
1- The results showed that all over tested oxidizer
temperatures, better performance was obtained with oxygen
relative humidity of 60%.
2- Low oxygen relative humidity (dry to 40%) with the dry
hydrogen caused membrane drying and ultimately resulted
in a degradation of fuel cell power output and cell
performance. While at 80% RH a performance reduction
occurred due to flooding.
3- Regarding oxidizer temperature, it generally gave better
performance with lower temperature at the same relative
humidity and other operating conditions.
4- The cell efficiency at max power increases with the
increase of oxygen feeding temperature.
5- At low relative humidity, vertical position of the cell
gives better performance for the cell, and the upward
direction is better that the downward direction.
6- Using straight open channels is not suitable with using
oxygen as a cathode feeding gas, although it gave better cell
performance compared with using air. But for the same flow
rate; so bad utilization of oxygen exists when using pure
oxygen.


Engineering Congress on Alternative Energy Applications November 3
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5
th
, 2009, KUWAIT
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