Design of an Improved Moisture Separator in a Turbocharger System for Fuel Cells
Aspinwall, Jacob Raleigh
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Moisture recovery is important in the operation of many fuel cell systems, especially proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The exhaust of a PEM fuel cell is a moderate temperature, pressurized humid air stream. A system that recovers liquid water condensate from the pressurized humid exhaust stream of a PEM fuel cell would markedly increase the effectiveness of such a system. The recovered water could be used to hydrate the fuel cell membrane, and it could supply a hydrocarbon reformer used for generating hydrogen. This project investigated and documented moisture recovery from the simulated humid exhaust stream of a 25 kW fuel cell with an improved axial flow separator. An axial flow centrifugal separator design was chosen as the best candidate due to its high efficiency and low pressure drop and a prototype was designed and constructed. The separator was then integrated into an experimental test system. First, the stream was simulated by heating compressed air and then humidifying it with superheated steam. Then, after expanding through the turbine section of an automotive turbocharger, the humid stream was passed through the moisture separator where liquid water condensate was removed from the flow. Results are presented for varying turbine inlet conditions at three separate separation lengths. It is shown that the separation efficiency for the improved design was 40% higher and the pressure drop was only 1/3 that of the conventional separator.