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Proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) flow-field design for improved water management

Advances in Electrocatalysis, Materials, Diagnostics and Durability

Advanced diagnostics, models and design

Low-temperature fuel cells

  1. J. S. Allen1,
  2. S. Y. Son2,
  3. S. H. Collicott3

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470974001.f500046

Handbook of Fuel Cells

Handbook of Fuel Cells

How to Cite

Allen, J. S., Son, S. Y. and Collicott, S. H. 2010. Proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) flow-field design for improved water management. Handbook of Fuel Cells. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, USA

  2. 2

    University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA

  3. 3

    Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Channel blockage in the form of liquid water or ice can result in severe degradation of fuel cell components. Thus, the durability of PEM fuel cells is dependent upon effective water management. Many mechanisms affect water management. The mechanism responsible for liquid plug formation is capillarity. Water does not appear in the channels in the form of a plug, rather water enters the channel as a drop through the diffusion media. Capillarity is responsible for the transition from a drop or a film of water into a plug which occludes the channel. The purpose of this chapter is to review the destabilization mechanisms responsible for plug formation in the flow channels. We also discuss analytical and computational tools that may be used to predict the behavior of the liquid water in the flow-field channels. These tools may also be used to design channel features that can improve water management in the flow field.


  • bipolar plate;
  • water management;
  • capillarity;
  • contact angle;
  • Surface Evolver;
  • Concus–Finn condition;
  • two-phase flow