We have developed proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC’s) with integrated planar electroosmotic pumping structures that actively remove liquid water from cathode flow channels. Recent experimental and numerical investigations on PEMFC’s emphasize water management as a critical factor in the design of robust, high efficiency fuel cells. Although various passive water management strategies have been proposed, water is still typically removed by pumping air into cathode channels at flow rates significantly larger than those required by fuel cell stoichiometry. This method of water removal is thermodynamically unfavorable and constrains cathode flow channel design. EO pumps can relieve cathode design barriers and simplify water management in fuel cells. EO pumps have no moving parts, scale across a wide range of operation, and result in low parasitic power. We demonstrate and quantify the efficacy of EO water pumping using a single-pass fuel cell test channel. Our results show that removing water from the cathode using integrated EO pumping structures improves fuel cell performance and stability. These pumps enable operation with air flow rates of just two to three times stoichiometric requirements.

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