Application of a Computational Fluid Dynamics and Experimental Approach to Fuel Cell Humidifier Optimization
The operation of a fuel cell to produce electricity requires a number of components outside the fuel cell stack itself. One key component is the humidifier. Proper operation of a Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell requires a certain humidity level to be maintained in the membrane(s) present in the stack; the humidifier fulfills this requirement by transferring moisture from the exhaust gas stream to the inbound fuel, as well as increasing efficiency by preheating the fuel with waste heat in the exhaust. DPoint Technologies, a Vancouver-based company, produces a line of compact humidifiers for various fuel cell systems. Pressure lost by the fuel stream inside these humidifiers limits their efficiency. This project aims to effect a redesign of the humidifier layout through testing with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, which approximates the conditions within the cell. This testing will also look to optimize the humidifier layout for other constraints, such as overall size. This is to be followed by the design, manufacture, and testing of a redesigned humidifier prototype. The end result, a more efficient humidifier of at least an equal effectiveness of the original design, will result in more efficient overall production of energy by fuel cell systems.