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, A. K. Stubos, Evangelos Gkanas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)
    202 Downloads (Pure)


    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
    Number of pages17
    JournalInternational Journal of Energy Research
    Issue number14
    Early online date13 Aug 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: D'Souza, C, Apicella, M, El-Kharouf, A, Stamatakis, E, Khzouz, M, Stubos, AK & Gkanas, E 2020, 'Thermal characteristics of an air‐cooled open‐cathode proton exchange membrane fuel cell stack via numerical investigation', International Journal of Energy Research, vol. 44, no. 14, pp. 11597-11613., which has been published in final form at
    This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


    European Regional Development Fund, Grant/Award Number: T1EDK‐05294; CU research internship scheme


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

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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