Through evolution, nature has developed mechanisms and systems with efficient distribution and the right balance between flow dynamics and energy transformation. For instance, respiratory organs are exemplary for efficient reactant transport and distribution with optimised thermodynamic balance. The networks inside these organs follow a branched, hierarchical, fractal architecture between macroscopic and microscopic length scales. Such a fractal structure allows for efficient transport and uniform distribution of materials inside them, maintaining a constant functionality through scale-up.
In our fuel cell research, to ensure uniform distribution of reactants across the electrode and a low pressure drop, we use a nature-inspired design that is rooted in thermodynamic and mechanical fundamentals, rather than biomimicry in a narrow sense. Inspiration is derived from the structure of the human lung, which ensures uniform gas distribution via an optimized fractal structure linking bronchi to alveoli, and realizing a remarkable combination of minimal entropy production, low pressure drop, and scale-invariant operation. Our lung-inspired flow-field plates maintain these unique characteristics of the lung, resulting in improved fuel cell performance over conventional flow-field based fuel cells. Uniformity in reactant distribution and minimal pressure drop are retained during scale-up, demonstrating the robustness of the proposed nature-inspired approach across length scales.
Past researchers: Jason Cho, Toby Neville
Collaborators: Dan Brett, Paul Shearing, UCL Electrochemical Innovation Lab
V.S. Bethapudi, J. Hack, G. Hinds, P.R. Shearing, D.J.L. Brett and M.-O Coppens, 2021, Electro-thermal mapping of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells with a fractal flow-field. Energy Conv. Mgt 250, 114924. [Link]
V.S.Bethapudi, G.Hinds, P.R.Shearing, D.J.L.Brett, M.-O.Coppens, 2020, Acoustic emission analysis of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Electrochem. Soc. Trans. 98(9), 177-184. [Link]
Trogadas. P, Cho. JIS, V.S. Bethapudi, Shearing. P, Brett. DJL, Coppens. M.-O, Nature-Inspired Flow-Fields and Water Management for PEM Fuel Cells. Electrochem. Soc. 98(9), 145-152. 145. [Link]
P. Trogadas, J.I.S. Cho, N. Kapil, L. Rasha, A. Corredera, D.J.L. Brett, M.-O. Coppens, 2020, Effect of extended short-circuiting in proton exchange membrane fuel cells, RSC Sustainable Energy & Fuels 4, 5739-5746, DOI: 10.1039/d0se00943a [Link]
V.S.Bethapudi, J.Hack, P.Trogadas, G.Hinds, P.R.Shearing, D.J.L.Brett, M.-O.Coppens, 2020, Hydration state diagnosis in fractal flow-field based polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells using acoustic emission analysis. Energy Conversion and Management 220, 113083. DOI: 10.1016/j.enconman.2020.113083 [Link]
J.I.S. Cho, J. Marquis, P. Trogadas, T.P. Neville, D.J.L. Brett, M.-O. Coppens, 2020, Optimizing the Architecture of Lung-Inspired Fuel Cells. Chemical Engineering Science 215, 1153750. [Link]
V.S. Bethapudi, M. Maier, G. Hinds, P.R. Shearing, D.J.L. Brett, M.-O. Coppens, 2019, Acoustic emission as a function of polarisation: Diagnosis of polymer electrolyte fuel cell hydration state, Electrochemistry Communications, 109, 106582 [Link]
V.S. Bethapudi, J. Hack, P. Trogadas, J.I.S. Cho, L. Rasha, G. Hinds, P.R. Shearing, D.J.L. Brett and M.-O Coppens, 2019, A lung-inspired printed circuit board polymer electrolyte fuel cell. Energy Conv. Mgt 202, 112198 [Link]
J.I.S. Cho, T.P. Neville, P. Trogadas, Q. Meyer, Y. Wu, R. Ziesche, P. Boillat, M. Cochet, V. Manzi-Orezzoli, P. Shearing, D.J.L. Brett and M.-O. Coppens, 2019, Visualization of liquid water in a lung-inspired ow-eld based polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell via neutron radiography. Energy 170, 14-21 DOI:10.1016/j.energy.2018.12.143 [Link]
J.I.S. Cho, T.P. Neville, P. Trogadas, J. Bailey, P. Shearing, D.J.L. Brett and M.-O. Coppens, 2018, Capillaries for water management in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Int. J. Hydrogen Energy43, 21949-21958. DOI:10.1016/j.ijhydene.2018.10.030. [Link]
P.Trogadas, J. I. S. Cho, T. P. Neville, J. Marquis, B. Wu, D. J. L. Brett & M.-O Coppens, 2018, A lung-inspired approach to scalable and robust fuel cell design. Energy Environ. Sci., 11, 136-143 DOI:10.1039/C7EE02161E. [Link]