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Proper water management plays an essential role in the performance and durability of Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells (PEFCs), but it is challenged by the variety of water transport phenomena that take place in these devices. Previous experimental work has shown the existence of fluctuations between low and high current density levels in PEFCs operated with wet hydrogen and dry air feed. The alternation between both performance states is accompanied by strong changes in the high frequency resistance, suggesting a cyclic hydration and dehydration of the membrane. This peculiar scenario is examined here considering liquid water distributions from neutron imaging and predictions from a 3D two-phase nonisothermal model. The results show that the hydration-dehydration cycles are triggered by the periodic condensation and shedding of liquid water at the anode inlet. The input of liquid water humidifies the anode channel and offsets the membrane dry-out induced by the dry air stream, thus leading to the highperformance state. When liquid water is flushed out of the anode channel, the dehydration process takes over, and the cell comes back to the low-performance state. The predicted amplitude of the current oscillations grows with decreasing hydrogen and increasing air flow rates, in agreement with previous experimental data. (C) 2017 Published by Elsevier B.V.
pefc; water management; membrane; ionic resistance; hydration-dehydration; alternating performance states; gas-diffusion layers; steady-state multiplicities; oxygen reduction kinetics; micro-porous layers; water management; liquid-water; in-situ; thermal-conductivity; relative-humidity; transport phenomena