Reactor Dynamics of PEM Fuel Cells

  • Jay Benziger
Part of the Topics in Applied Physics book series (TAP, volume 113)


Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells are complex multiphase chemical reactors, whose principal products are water and an electric current. The basic operation of fuel cells has been reviewed previously in this volume. Hydrogen and oxygen are fed on opposite sides of an ion-conducting polymer. Hydrogen is oxidized to protons at a catalytic anode and the protons are conducted across the membrane where they react with oxygen and electrons to make water at a catalytic cathode. The proton current is driven by the chemical potential difference of hydrogen between the anode and cathode. When an external load is connected across the anode and cathode, an electron current passes through the external load, matched by a proton current through the ion-conducting membrane. The current is limited by both the external load impedance and the internal resistance of the ion-conducting membrane.

The internal resistance of the polymer electrolyte membrane depends on the water content...


Fuel Cell Flow Channel Load Resistance Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Model Fuel Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the National Science Foundation (CTS -0354279 and DMR-0213707) for support of this work. Andy Bocarsly and Supramaniam Srinivasan were instrumental in introducing me to PEM fuel cells. I want to thank all the undergraduate students (J.F. Moxley, C. Teuscher, E. Karnas, C. Woo, R. Mejia-Ariza) and graduate students (E.-S. J.Chia, W. Hogarth, B. Satterfield) for their contributions in the lab. I especially want to thank my collaborator Ioannis Kevrekidis for encouragement to pursue this work, and developing mathematical models for the complex system dynamics.



cross-sectional area for flow channel


water activity = Pw/Pw o


Gas phase diffusivity


volumetric flow rate of reactant feeds




proton current


mass transfer coefficient for water vapor


length of flow channel


number of sulfonic acid residues in membrane


water content in membrane


partial pressure of water


vapor pressure of water


gas constant


internal resistance for fuel cell membrane electrode assembly


external load resistance




voltage drop across the load


gas flow volume at fuel cell electrodes


battery voltage for fuel cell


open circuit voltage of fuel cell


activation polarization overpotential


number of water molecules per sulfonic acid residue


residence time of fuel cell


characteristic diffusion time


characteristic time constants


Faraday’s constant


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2009 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jay Benziger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringPrinceton UniversityPrinceton

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