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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ice crystallization during cold-start of a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell

  • Author(s): Dursch, TJ
  • Liu, JF
  • Trigub, GJ
  • Radke, CJ
  • Weber, AZ
  • et al.

Under subfreezing conditions, ice forms in the gas-diffusion (GDL) and catalyst layers (CL) of proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), drastically reducing cell performance. Although a number of strategies exist to prevent ice formation, there is little fundamental understanding of ice-crystallization mechanisms and kinetics within PEMFC components. We incorporate recently developed ice-crystallization kinetic expressions (1-3) within the CL and GDL of a simplified 1-D transient PEMFC cold-start model. To investigate the importance of ice-crystallization kinetics, we compare liquid-water and ice saturations, and cell-failure time predicted using our kinetic rate expression relative to that predicted using a thermodynamic-based approach. We identify conditions under which ice-crystallization kinetics is critical and elucidate the impact of freezing kinetics on low-temperature PEMFC operation. © The Electrochemical Society.

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