UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Flow visualization in 3D printed PEM fuel cell bipolar plates Piri, Hossein


In recent years, due to the public concern on global warming, both increasing energy efficiency and developing green energy become crucially important. Fuel cells can be one of the most suitable clean energy solutions for the environment because of its high energy conversion efficiency and near zero emissions of criteria air pollutants at the use stage. To increase the energy efficiency of fuel cells, effectively utilize the Pt catalyst and increase the fuel cell durability, the uniform distribution of the reactants over the fuel cell active area is of great importance. Over the last decade, many researchers have focused on developing flow field design to homogenously distribute the reactant and to decrease the pressure drop in the bipolar plates. However, most of the previous studies are in the stage of numerical simulation, and the few experimental studies have used very simple flow field geometries. Not to mention that complex transport phenomena inside a fuel cell make even the numerical simulation challenging and time consuming, which hinders the quick screening of proposed modifications and new designs. While the conventional fabrication techniques are expensive and time consuming, 3D printing is a very good rapid prototyping method that can be used both to validate the simulation results and to supplement the tedious simulation work. The question is whether the results from 3D printed flow fields could be as accurate and reliable as flow fields fabricated with conventional methods. In the present research, we investigated the applicability of 3D printing in validating the simulation results and as a fast screening method. State of the art designs for anode, cathode and water cooling BPPs proposed and fabricated using Polyjet 3D printing, SLA 3D printing and laser-cutter technologies and the pressure drop and velocity profiles were measured for each plate. The results demonstrated that SLA 3D printing has great promises to serve as a screening tool in modifying the flow field design, as well as in validating the simulation results.

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