A New Dimension of 3D CFD Simulation of PEM Fuel Cell Stacks

News from AVL’s Virtual Fuel Cell Development

PEM fuel cell simulation on both the single cell and stack level is gaining more momentum. It supports development engineers to meet performance and lifetime targets. It is therefore crucial to find an optimum modeling approach which simultaneously saves time and increases the simulation workflow efficiency. At AVL, we recently developed a highly efficient modeling approach based on the 3D CFD software AVL FIRE™ M. Making this the first solution on the market that can simulate whole PEM fuel cell stacks on a typical desktop environment. It delivers a significant speed-up of simulation time while maintaining the highest result accuracy.

To achieve this reduced simulation time, we use a homogenized channel approach which is applicable to all typical PEM fuel cell designs. We have extensively validated and compared this approach to conventional, fully resolved simulations. This simulation speed-up comes from a significant reduction of computational elements (factor of 10–50) in flow channels on both the cathode and anode side. We have replaced the fully resolved geometry of the channels with a block-structured mesh that guides the flow with the definition of flow steering selections. We then link these to the fully accessible material properties definition in AVL FIRE™ M. The PEM fuel cell module allows a seamless activation of the homogenized channel approach with minimal user interaction and pre-defined simulation settings.

This new homogenizing method makes the tool indispensable right at the start of the design phase.