Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Simulation and Design with Numerical Adjoint Techniques

A Dissertation Presented for the Doctor of Philosophy in Computational Engineering, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Louie C. Elliott, August 2008

This dissertation reports on the application of numerical optimization techniques as applied to fuel cell simulation and design. Due to the “multi-physics” inherent in afuel cell, which results in a highly coupled and non-linear behavior, an experimental program to analyze and improve the performance of fuel cells is extremely difficult.This program applies new optimization techniques with computational methods from the field of aerospace engineering to the fuel cell design problem.

After an overview of fuel cell history, importance, and classification, a mathematical model of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) is presented. The governing equations are discretized and solved with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques including unstructured meshes, non-linear solution methods, numerical derivatives with complex variables, and sensitivity analysis with adjoint methods.

Following the validation of the fuel cell model in 2-D and 3-D, the results of the sensitivity analysis are presented. The sensitivity derivative for a cost function with respect to a design variable is found with three increasingly sophisticated techniques: finite difference, direct differentiation, and adjoint. A design cycle is performed using a simple optimization method to improve the value of the implemented cost function. The results from this program could improve fuel cell performance and lessen the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Louie C. Elliott Doctoral Dissertation