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Design and analysis of an alkaline fuel cell

Azzam, Mohammed H. A.
Qaq, Zabayyan
Orhan, Mehmet Fatih
Published version
This study provides a step-by-step, up-to-date fuel cell fundamentals, thermodynamic and electrochemical principles, and system evaluation factors via a case study of a 10-kW alkaline fuel cell designed to operate in space applications. The system also produces 100 kg of pure water and 5.5 kW of heat. The system is modelled using MATLAB and ANSYS Fluent. Then, the model is verified with theoretical and experimental results from the literature. A parametric study of various design and operating parameters, and material selection is carried out to optimize the overall performance. A net output voltage of 0.8 V is obtained at 150 mAcm-2 current density, which yields an overall efficiency of 75%. The results indicate that increasing the electrolyte thickness or operating temperature results in a lower net voltage output. Additionally, improving the performance of a fuel cell through the bipolar plate can be achieved by understanding the contribution of different parameters towards minimizing the pressure drop across the bipolar plate. It is found that implementing an optimized selection of fluid flow rate, channel width, channel depth, number of channels and current density minimize the pressure drop throughout the bipolar plate. Relative humidity has a significant effect on the pressure drop. Results indicate that increasing the relative humidity consequentially rises the pressure drop. Finally, the CFD simulation illustrates that the end-zones in the bipolar plate accumulates fluid due to the nature of stagnation at those locations. Thus, total pressure at those locations is the highest. One of the major contributions here is studying the effect of KOH concentration on the performance of the AFC at different operating temperatures. In addition, a wide range of design and operating parameters were analysed to understand their effect on the overall performance of the fuel cell.