Reaching high and stable efficiency with a Polymer Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) during unsteady load operations is a delicate task because the transport of product water by the electrochemical reaction has to be precisely managed. Two fuel cell components and their mutual interaction play a key role in the water management: the Gas Diffusion Layer (GDL), the support of the electrode, and the Gas Flow Channel (GFC) on the cathode side ensuring gas distribution over the electrode active area. The present proposal focuses on fundamental experiments to gain further insights into multi-phase flows (gas /liquid) in porous media (GDL) and channels (GFC). A model fuel cell will be specially designed and built to allow the separate study of water transport in GDL/GFC without being dependent on electrochemical reactions. Flow visualisation studies of basic and innovative flow fields and GDL under thermally controlled conditions and a large variety of flow conditions will be undertaken. Most promising GDL/GFC arrangements will be finally tested in real electrochemical environment. Our aim is to contribute to the conception of new geometrical designs of GFC with corresponding GDL and to find the operational conditions minimizing energy consumption. The fellowship will be the starting point of a strong collaboration between LTN-Polytech’Nantes (France) and CNR-ITAE (Italy) where the final objectives are to design and build a high efficiency stack. This stack will be used in the power train of a fuel cell powered prototype car running a world energetic car race, the Shell Eco Marathon. The fellowship will be an opportunity for the fellow to acquire competences on fuel cell electrochemistry and stack design in a leading European research centre on fuel cell involved in the Joint Initiative Technology “Fuel Cells and Hydrogen” starting in 2008. Expected results will contribute to Europe competitiveness in the energy domain through this program.
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