Models play an important role in fuel cell design/development. The most critical problems to overcome in the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology are the water and thermal management. In this work, a steady-state, one-dimensional model accounting for coupled heat and mass transfer in a single PEM fuel cell is presented. Special attention is devoted to the water transport through the membrane which is assumed to be a combined effect of diffusion and electro-osmotic drag. The transport of heat through the gas diffusion layers is assumed to be a conduction-predominated process and heat generation or consumption is considered in the catalyst layers. The analytical solutions for concentration and net water transport coefficient are compared with recent published experimental data. The operating conditions considered are various cathode and anode relative humidity (RH) values at 80 degrees C and 2 atm. The studied conditions correspond to relatively low values of RH, conditions of special interest, namely, in the automotive applications. Model predictions were successfully compared to experimental and theoretical I-V polarization curves presented by Hung et al. [2007. Operation-relevant modelling of an experimental proton exchange membrane fuel cell. journal of Power Sources 171, 728-737] and Ju et al. [2005a. A single-phase, non-isothermal model for PEM fuel cells. International journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 48, 1303-1315]. The developed easy to implement model using low CPU consumption predicts reasonably well the influence of current density and RH on the net water transport coefficient as well as the oxygen, hydrogen and water vapour concentrations at the anode and cathode. The model can provide suitable operating ranges adequate to different applications (namely low humidity operation) for variable MEA structures.
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