The Impact of Cooling Channels and Heat Spreaders on the Performance of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)

Keoagile Mogorosi, M. Tunde Oladiran, Edward Rakgati


Investigation of the operational behavior of fuel cells is required to assess their overall performance and dynamic stability. This research paper describes the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in investigating the effect of incorporating a separate adjacent cooling channel and heat spreader in a fuel cell. The objective of the study was to find the effect of adding coolant channel and heat spreader to the fuel cell. This model was run using different variables, namely pressure, voltage, and fuel flow rate. The study shows performance of the fuel cell regarding temperature changes, distribution, and water mass fraction changes at a common plane across all the models.  The results indicate that the presence of a separate cooling channel and a cooling channel with a heat spreader reduce the local temperatures on the cathode side by about 10°C and 12°C, respectively. The results of the model cells were enhanced by the introduction of cooling channels and heat spreaders.


CFD, Cooling, Experiment, Heat spreaders, PEM fuel cell

Full Text:



Ionescu V., 2016. Simulating the effect of gas channel geometry on PEM fuel cell performance by finite element method. Procedia Technology, Romanian Journal of Physics, 713–719.

Carcadea E., Varlam M., and Ingham D.B., 2018. The effects of cathode flow channel size and operating conditions on PEM fuel performance: A CFD modelling study and experimental demonstration, International Journal of Energy Research 42(8): 2789-2804.

Wu H., Kang D., and Perng S., 2017. Effect of rectangular ribs in the flow channels of HTPEM fuel cell by a three-dimensional model. Energy Procedia, 1376-1381.

Liu H., Li P., Hartz A., and Wang K., 2015. Effects of geometry/dimensions of gas flow channels and operating conditions of high temperature PEM fuel cells. International Journal of Energy Environmental Engineering, 75 – 89.

Lee C.S. and S.C. Yi. 2004. Numerical methodology for proton exchange membrane fuel cell simulation using computational fluid dynamics technique. Korean J. Chem. Eng. 21(6): 1153-1160.

Gao F., Blunier B., and Miraoui A., 2012. Proton exchange membrane fuel cells modeling, pp47-48. London: ISTE Ltd and John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Ionescu V., 2014. Finite element method modeling of a high temperature PEM fuel cell. Romanian Journal of Physics, 285–294.

Catlin G., 2010. PEM fuel cell modeling and optimization using a generic algorithm [PhD thesis], Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Delaware, USA.

Le T., 2003. Fuel cells: The epidemic of the future, Indiana Institute of Technology, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, pp: 505-510.

Wang Y., 2008. Modeling of two- phase transport in the diffusion media of polymer electrolyte fuel cells. Journal of Power Sources 185: 261–271.

Cao T., Lin H., Chen Li., He Y., and Tao W., 2013, Numerical investigation of the coupled water and thermal management in PEM fuel cell. Applied Energy 112: 1115–1125.

Bosnjakovic F., 1965. Technical Thermodynamics. Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York, USA.

Ji M. and W. Zidong. 2009. A review of water management in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Energies 2: 1057- 1106.

Hu M., Gu A., Wang M., Zhu X., and Yu L., 2004. Three-dimensional, two-phase flow mathematical model for PEM fuel cell: Part I. model development. Energy Conversion and Management 45: 1861-1882.

Webber A., Borup R., Darling R., Das P., Dursch T., and Gu W., 2014. A critical review of modelling transport phenomena in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. J. Electrochem. Soc. 161(12): F1254-F1299.

Wang X., Duan Y., Yan W., and Peng X., 2008., Effects of flow channel geometry on cell performance for PEM fuel cells with parallel and interdigitated flow fields. Electrochimica Acta, 5335-5343.

Chen S., Wu Y., Sun H., and Sun Z., 2011. Simulation of pressure effect on water in the cathode for the PEM fuel cell. In 2011 Second International Conference on Mechanic Automation and Control Engineering, pp 2566-2569.

Ahmadi N., Rezazadeh S., Yekani M., Fakouri A., and Mirzaee I., 2013. Numerical investigation of the effect of inlet gases humidity on the polymer exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) performance. Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering 37(1): 70-71.

Lu J.B., Wei G.H., Zhu F.J., Yan X.H., and Zhang J.L., 2019. Pressure effects on PEM fuel cell performance. Fuel Cells 19(3): 225-241.

Yuan W., Li J., Xia Z., Chen S., Zhang X., Wang Z., and Sun H., 2020. Study of water transport mechanism based on the single straight channel of proton exchange membrane fuel cell. AIP Advances 105206: 1-14.

Lee P. and S. Hwang. 2009. Performance characteristics of a PEM fuel cell with parallel flow channels at different cathode relative humidity levels. Sensors (Basel), pp. 9104 – 9121.

Barbir F., 2012., Fuel Cells: Theory and Practice, 2nd edition, ISBN: 9780123983725. London: Academic Press.

Yuan W., Li J., Xia Z., Chen S., Zhang X., Wang Z., and Sun H., 2020. Study of water transport mechanism based on the single straight channel of proton exchange membrane fuel cell. AIP Advances 105206: 1-14.

Rahgoshay S., Ranjbar A., Ramiar A., and Alizadeh E., 2017. Thermal investigation of a PEM fuel cell with cooling flow field. Energy 134: 61-73.