CFD & AMP Center
Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
West Virginia University

Application of High Performance Computing to Modeling of Coal/Syngas SOFC Fuel-Cell Stacks

WVU Research Corporation
Dr. Ismail B. Celik
Dr. Andre Smirnov
Dr. Suryanarayana Pakalapati
Francisco Elizalde-Blancas
Fatma Nihan Cayan
Fuel Cell System Modeling
Modeling of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) Stacks using HPC
Multi-dimensional Fuel Cell Modeling

The fuel cell research at CFD & AMP center focuses on developing various numerical models for simulating the operation of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). While simple lumped models are better suited for overall performance study and control applications, detailed numerical models could be employed to gain better insight into the coupling between various transport processes inside a SOFC and their relation to its performance. Such knowledge would lead to new ideas and approaches to tackle the technological challenges facing the SOFC technology of today such as low power-densities, high costs, short life time etc. Another specific problem being addressed at CFD & AMP center is modeling of SOFCs operating on coal syngas.

Different levels of SOFC modeling are performed at CFD & AMP. One classification is electrode, cell and stack models. Another classification is zero- , one- , two- and three dimensional models. The basic principle in all these models is similar in the sense that conservation equations are solved for transport processes inside the SOFCs namely, mass transport, enthalpy transport, charge transport (electrons and ions) and momentum transport. However, differences arise from the domain considered for solution and the dimensionality of the equations solved. The mathematical equations representing the conservation of transported quantities are solved using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) methods. Some of the unique features of the SOFC models developed at CFD & AMP center

  • Application of High Performance Computing ( HPC ) to stack modeling in a manner that takes advantage of the modular nature of cells in a stack.
  • Calculating the potential differences across the Cathode/Electrolyte and Electrolyte/Anode interfaces separately for three dimensional electric potential distribution calculations.
  • Pseudo three-dimensional modeling of SOFCs where one dimensional modeling is used for gas channels and three dimensional modeling is used for other regions of SOFC.

In addition researchers at CFD & AMP are pursuing the atomistic modeling to study the less understood reaction phenomena related to the SOFCs such as catalytic activity of certain materials, sulfur poisoning of the catalysts, carbon deposition on catalysts etc. Atomistic models using Molecular Dynamics (MD) or Monte Carlo (MC) simulations of could also aid studies on effects of minor impurities in coal syngas such as Arsenic, Mercury etc. on the performance of SOFC anode.

Figure 1. Current path lines in a cross-section normal to the gas channels inside a co-flow SOFC

Figure 2. Profile of electric potential along the thickness of a co-flow SOFC

Figure 3. Temperature distribution for 5 cell co-flow SOFC stack obtained using pseudo 3D model DREAM-SOFC: Contours at anode/electrolyte interface of each cell

Figure 4. Temperature (K) distribution inside the 5-cell counter-flow SOFC stack calculated using FLUENT SOFC module

Figure 5. Domain decomposition for a fuel cell stack where each cell is treated as an individual process on a separate computer processor

(a) 5 cell stack (b) 20 cell stack
Figure 6. Cell to cell voltage variation in a stack, normalized with the highest cell voltage of 0.70V for an average current density of 667 mA/cm2

Related Publications

  • Smirnov, A.V., Burt, A.C., and Celik, I., (2006) Multi-Physics Simulation of Fuel Cells Using Multi-Component Modeling. Journal of Power Sources, 158:295-302
  • Elizalde-Blancas, F., Yavuz, I., Pakalapat