Thermal characteristics of an air-cooled open-cathode proton exchange membrane fuel cell stack via numerical investigation

Calvin D'Souza, Michael Apicella, Ahmad El-kharouf, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Martin Khzouz, Athanasios Stubos, Evangelos I. Gkanas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In light of stricter emissions regulations and depleting fossil fuel reserves, fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are one of the leading alternatives for powering future vehicles. An open-cathode, air-cooled proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) stack provides a relatively simple electric generation system for a vehicle in terms of system complexity and number of components. The temperature within a PEMFC stack is critical to its level of performance and the electrochemical efficiency. Previously created computational models to study and predict the stack temperature have been limited in their scale and the inaccurate assumption that temperature is uniform throughout. The present work details the creation of a numerical model to study the temperature distribution of an 80-cell Ballard 1020ACS stack by simulating the cooling airflow across the stack. Using computational fluid dynamics, a steady-state airflow simulation was performed using experimental data to form boundary conditions where possible. Additionally, a parametric study was performed to investigate the effect of the distance between the stack and cooling fan on stack performance. Model validation was performed against published results. The temperature distribution across the stack was identical for the central 70% of the cells, with eccentric temperatures observed at the stack extremities, while the difference between coolant and bipolar plate temperatures was approximately 10°C at the cooling channel outlets. The results of the parametric study showed that the fan-stack distance has a negligible effect on stack performance. The assumptions regarding stack temperature uniformity and measurement were challenged. Lastly, the hypothesis regarding the negligible effect of fan-stack distance on stack performance was confirmed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11597-11613
JournalInternational Journal of Energy Research
Issue number14
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • airflow simulation
  • coolant temperature
  • fuel cell vehicles
  • PEM fuel cells
  • stack temperature
  • thermal management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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