Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module

Improve Energy Efficiencies with the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module

 Read more below 

Want to know more?

Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module

Get a software demonstration

Fuel Cell and Electrolyser Modelling for Design and Performance Analysis

The Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module is an add-on to the COMSOL Multiphysics software for gaining a deeper understanding of fuel cell and electrolyzer systems, which is useful for designing and optimising the electrochemical cells. The types of systems that may be studied include proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), hydroxide exchange (alkaline) fuel cells (AFCs), molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFCs), and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), as well as the corresponding water electrolyser systems. However, the module accommodates all types of fuel cells and electrolysers.

As with every product in the COMSOL product suite, multiphysics capabilities are built into the software for including multiphase fluid flow, heat transfer, thermodynamics properties, and more.

What You Can Model with the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module features predefined formulations for the most common types of hydrogen fuel cell, accounting for the electrodes, electrolyte, as well as current collectors and feeders. Examples of fuel cell types that can be modelled are the PEMFC, AFC, PAFC, SOFC, MCFC, and high-temperature PEMFC, to mention a few.

Modelling and simulation can be used to predict the current and potential distribution, the chemical species distribution, and the temperature distribution in a fuel cell. In this way, the cell can then be designed for the best possible utilisation and operation for a given set of conditions. Important aspects are the removal of water and avoiding nonuniform utilisation of the cell, which may result in poor performance and decreased lifespan. Additionally, microscopic aspects of the gas diffusion electrodes and the active layers can be studied, such as catalyst loading, particle size distribution, and bimodal pore distribution.

Analyses cover 0D, 1D, 2D, and 3D during transient or steady-state operation. The physics-based models can also be formulated in the frequency domain to simulate impedance spectroscopy experiments.

Water Electrolysers

The lowered costs for wind and solar power has led to a larger production of electricity from electrolyser sources. This also means that there is a larger surplus of electricity when the wind blows and the sun shines. Storing this electricity in batteries is expensive. Instead, electrolysers can be used to produce hydrogen from electricity through water electrolysis.

The design of a water electrolyser is similar to that of a hydrogen fuel cell, with the difference being that in comparison to a fuel cell, the current runs in the reverse direction, the cathode is the negative electrode, and the anode is the positive electrode. The models within the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module involve the description of the gas diffusion electrodes, the active layer, the electrolyte separator, and the bipolar plates with the channels. Models can be defined at the unit cell as well as the stack level.

As with the fuel cells, the models are physics-based and cover 0D, 1D, 2D, and 3D, for steady-state and transient operations.

Industrial Electrolysers

The functionality of the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module is not limited to water electrolysers. Any electrochemical cell or electrolyser can be modelled. This includes the ability to describe gas evolution and laminar multiphase flow. For systems such as chlorate electrolysis and the chlor-alkali membrane process, the module can be combined with the CFD Module to also treat turbulent flows.

Features and Functionality in the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module

The Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module contains detailed descriptions of the transport equations, chemical reactions, and electrochemical reactions that occur in fuel cells and electrolysers. The software formulates the model equations for gas diffusion electrodes, pore electrolyte, electrolyte (separator), and bipolar plates, which are the main components in these systems. This implies modelling the cells in 0D, 1D, 2D, or full 3D during stationary operation, or for full transient experiments and operation.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Current Distribution
Gas Diffusion Electrodes
Multiphase and Single-Phase Flow in Free and Porous Media
Built-In Thermodynamics
Heat Transfer
The space-dependent simulations (1D, 2D, and 3D) can account for ohmic losses (primary); ohmic and activation losses (secondary); as well as ohmic, activation, and mass transport losses (tertiary). For tertiary current distributions, it is possible to define systems with supporting electrolyte, dilute electrolytes, and concentrated electrolytes. The transport equations, the Nernst–Planck equations, can be combined with the electroneutrality condition or Poisson's equation.

The electrode kinetics can be defined using the Tafel equation, the Butler–Volmer equation, or with arbitrary functions of the overpotential and the concentration of chemical species. Multiple reactions may be defined on an electrode surface (an arbitrary number).

The current distribution interfaces can be used in combination with porous electrodes, gas diffusion electrodes, and planar electrodes.

Modelling gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs) in the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module is very straightforward. The transport equations in the gas phase and in the pore electrolyte are automatically defined in the user interface based on the boundary conditions added. The software contains separate domain features for defining the hydrogen and oxygen electrodes. The main electrode reactions are predefined, but you can change the kinetics and add bi- and parasitic reactions.

The transport of species in the gas phase is automatically coupled with the transport in the gas channels. The fluid flow is defined for the gas channel and for the porous structure using the Brinkmann equations to model fully coupled free and porous media flow.

The charge balance in the electrolyte (separator) and the pore electrolyte (the electrolyte in the active layer or in the GDE) are also defined. They are automatically coupled to the transport equations in the gas phase through the electrochemical reactions and Faraday's law.

One of the specific phenomena in low-temperature fuel cells and water electrolysers is the concurrent transport of liquid and gaseous water (steam). In fuel cells, the flow needs to drive water out of the cell as well, to avoid flooding of the electrodes. Similarly, in water electrolysis inadequate transport of the produced gas may render parts of the cell inactive. In both cases, it is important to model two-phase flow in the porous electrodes and in the open channels.

The Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module features the mixture, bubbly flow, and Euler–Euler models for dispersed multiphase flows, as well as phase transport in porous media. They allow for the modelling of multiphase flow in porous media (electrodes) as well as in open free media (channels). For more information on these multiphase flow models, view the CFD Module page.

The content of the gas mixtures in the hydrogen and oxygen electrodes may vary for different processes and different operating conditions. The Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module contains a built-in thermodynamic properties database for hydrogen mixtures and oxygen mixtures. The hydrogen mixture may contain nitrogen, water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide as additional species in order to model byproducts from reforming reactions in addition to hydrogen. The same additional species are available for the oxygen mixture. When the composition is selected and the reference partial pressures are defined, the software can compute the equilibrium electrode potential for the hydrogen and oxygen electrode reactions, thereby also the equilibrium potential for the cell.

The definition of the energy balance is built-in when using the Fuel Cell & Electrolyser Module. Heat sources and sinks originating from electrochemical reactions, transport of ions and chemical species, as well as current conduction can be added automatically in a heat transfer analysis. Additionally, the thermodynamic database makes it easy to obtain input data for the simulations of thermal management of hydrogen-oxygen cells.

Every business and every simulation need is different.

In order to fully evaluate whether or not the COMSOL Multiphysics® software will meet your requirements, you need to contact us. By talking to one of our sales representatives, you will get personalised recommendations and fully documented examples to help you get the most out of your evaluation and guide you to choose the best license option to suit your needs.

Fill in your contact details and any specific comments or questions, and submit. You will receive a response from a sales representative within one business day.

Request a Software Demonstration:

Want to know more?

(COMSOL®, COMSOL Multiphysics®, Capture the Concept, COMSOL Desktop®) are registered trademarks of COMSOL AB, LiveLink™ is an unregistered trademark of COMSOL AB, ACIS and SAT are registered trademarks of Spatial Corporation. AutoCAD, AutoCAD Inventor and Inventor are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. CATIA is a registered trademark of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries. Microsoft, Excel and Windows are registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Parasolid and Solid Edge are trademarks or registered trademarks of Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and in other countries. SolidWorks is a registered trademark of Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation. Creo and Pro/ENGINEER are trademarks or registered trademarks of PTC Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and in other countries. MATLAB is a registered trademark of The MathWorks, Inc. Amazon Web Services, the “Powered by Amazon Web Services” logo, Amazon EC2 and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. Mac and Macintosh are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. Red Hat is a registered trademark of Red Hat, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries. Neither COMSOL nor any COMSOL products are affiliated with, endorsed by, sponsored by, or supported by any of these other trademark owners. Other product names, brand names or logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.