A Comprehensive Modeling Method for Proton Exchange Membrane Electrolyzer Development

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Hydrogen attracts significant interests as an effective energy carrier that can be derived from renewable sources. Hydrogen production using a proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer can efficiently convert renewable power via water splitting in wide scales—from large, centralized generation to on-site production. Mathematical models with multiple scales and fidelities facilitate the continuing improvements of PEM electrolyzer development to improve performance, cost, and reliability. The model scopes and methods are presented in this paper, which also introduces a comprehensive PEM electrolysis modeling tool based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software, ANSYS/Fluent. The modeling tool incorporates electrochemical model of a PEM electrolysis cell to simulate the performance of coupled thermal-fluid, species transport, and electrochemical processes in a product-scale cell or stack by leveraging the powerful meshing generation and CFD solver of ANSYS/Fluent. The thermal-fluid modeling includes liquid water/gas two-phase flow and simulates a PEM electrolysis cell by using Fluent user-defined functions as add-on modules accounting for PEM-specific species transport and electrochemical processes. The modeling outcomes expediate PEM electrolyzer scaling up from basic material development and laboratory testing.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)17627-17643
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number34
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-79653


  • Electrochemical modeling
  • Hydrogen production
  • Low temperature electrolysis water splitting
  • Proton exchange membrane electrolysis cell


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