Numerical Investigation on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane Electrolyzer Performance

  • Diego de Haro Ruiz

Student thesis: Master's Thesis

Abstract

The boom in population has increased the demand for water, food and electricity. A cheap, plentiful and sustainable way of energy generation is needed to meet these needs while controlling global warming. Renewable energy sources have been an approach to meet these demands; however intermittency in production is still a great concern. Efficient storage systems are needed to solve this issue and hydrogen has exhibited good performance as energy carrier. Among all the hydrogen production technologies, Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) water electrolysis shows attractive characteristics for an integrated renewable energy storage system. An in depth investigation of the High Temperature PEM Electrolyzer performance was carried out. By developing a numerical framework for the HT-PEM electrolyzer, the fundamental aspects of the electrolysis cell were studied along with the effects of flow channel design and operating parameters on the electrolysis cell performance. A single-domain model of a HT-PEM electrolysis cell was implemented in the commercial CFD code ANSYS Fluent. Strong agreement between model prediction and experimental polarization curves was obtained within the experimental range. The results suggest that multiple-serpentine channel design performs better in terms of hydrogen production and temperature distribution with reasonable pressure drop. The parametric investigation strongly suggests that both Reynolds numbers at anode and cathode inlet have no significant effect on the electrolyzer performance for the region studied. Moreover, results prove that operating temperature has ten times more effect on the cell performance than the operating pressure, therefore being the dominant performance driver. As a result of this investigation, it was concluded that operating conditions 130°C, 2 atm, 1.75 V and multi-serpentine geometry for anode and cathode flow channels enhance performance of the HT PEM electrolyzer and indicates that the technology is competitive with other commercial hydrogen production technologies. This study will contribute to a more efficient operation and design of HT PEM electrolyzer, improving performance and proving the feasibility of the technology as a renewable energy storage system.
Date of AwardMay 2014
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorTariq Shamim (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell; Mathematical Models; Design and Construction; HT-PEM Electrolyzer.

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