Error of Darcy's law for serpentine flow fields: An analytical approach

Xuyang Zhang, Xu Zhang, Hidetaka Taira, Hongtan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Serpentine flow fields and other flow fields with partial under-land cross-flow are commonly used in various energy devices, such as proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and redox flow batteries, due to their higher mass transfer rate to reaction sites and better product removal capability. Accurately predicting the under-land cross-flow rate and pressure drop in such flow fields is crucial in flow field design optimizations. Darcy's law is the most commonly used model in predicting the under-land cross-flow and pressure drop in such flow fields. However, since the Darcy's law neglects inertial effect, its validity in different designs and operating conditions needs to be carefully studied. In this work, mathematical models for a serpentine flow field are developed based on both the Darcy's law and a modified Darcy's law that includes the inertial effect. Both models are solved and analytical solutions are obtained. The predicted pressure drops and under-land cross-flow rates from the two models are compared with experimental data and the results show that under some conditions, both the Darcy's law and the modified Darcy's law can predict pressure drop and under-land cross-flow rate reasonably well. However, under other conditions the Darcy's law can result in significantly large errors in predicting both pressure drop and under-land cross-flow rates. Further studies provide the variations of errors from the Darcy's law with different parameters, including channel length, gas diffusion layer (GDL) thickness, land width, inlet flow rate, GDL permeability and GDL inertial coefficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • Darcy's law
  • Gas diffusion layer
  • Modified Darcy's law
  • PEM fuel cell
  • Pressure drop
  • Under-land cross-flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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