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3D CFD Electrochemical and Heat Transfer Model of an Internally Manifolded Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell

[+] Author Affiliations
Grant L. Hawkes, James E. O’Brien

Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID

Greg G. Tao

Materials and Systems Research, Inc., Salt Lake City, UT

Paper No. IMECE2011-62582, pp. 505-512; 8 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 4: Energy Systems Analysis, Thermodynamics and Sustainability; Combustion Science and Engineering; Nanoengineering for Energy, Parts A and B
  • Denver, Colorado, USA, November 11–17, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5490-7
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


A three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and electrochemical model has been created to model high-temperature electrolysis cell performance and steam electrolysis in an internally manifolded planar solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) stack. This design is being evaluated experimentally at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for hydrogen production from nuclear power and process heat. Mass, momentum, energy, and species conservation are numerically solved by means of the commercial CFD code FLUENT. A solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) model adds the electrochemical reactions and loss mechanisms and computation of the electric field throughout the cell. The FLUENT SOFC user-defined subroutine was modified for this work to allow for operation in the SOEC mode. Model results provide detailed profiles of temperature, operating potential, steam-electrode gas composition, oxygen-electrode gas composition, current density and hydrogen production over a range of stack operating conditions. Results will be presented for a five-cell stack configuration that simulates the geometry of five-cell stack tests performed at the INL and at Materials and System Research, Inc. (MSRI). Results will also be presented for a single cell that simulates conditions in the middle of a large stack. Flow enters the stack from the bottom, distributes through the inlet plenum, flows across the cells, gathers in the outlet plenum and flows downward making an upside-down “U” shaped flow pattern. Flow and concentration variations exist downstream of the inlet holes. Predicted mean outlet hydrogen and steam concentrations vary linearly with current density, as expected. Contour plots of local electrolyte temperature, current density, and Nernst potential indicate the effects of heat transfer, reaction cooling/heating, and change in local gas composition. Results are discussed for using this design in the electrolysis mode. Discussion of thermal neutral voltage, enthalpy of reaction, hydrogen production, cell thermal efficiency, cell electrical efficiency, and Gibbs free energy are discussed and reported herein.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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