Steady-State Operation of a Compressor for a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell System

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The performance of a system consisting of a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell coupled to a centrifugal air compressor is simulated. Two modes of operation of the system are investigated: one in which the speed of the compressor is constant, and the other in which the compressor speed is varied with the electric load on the fuel cell stack. The operating characteristics of the compressor and the PEM fuel cell stack and their influence on the system efficiency are analyzed for a step change in the stack current. The effects of the fuel cell stack back-pressure and the electric load on the compressor power consumption and the system efficiency are studied. It is found that the system efficiency is higher when the fuel cell stack is operated at a constant oxygen gas stoichiometry by varying the compressor speed instead of at a constant compressor speed. The system model can be used to determine the rotation speed of the compressor for various electric loads.