Fuel cell modeling is an inherently multiphysics problem. As a result, scientists and engineers trained in different areas are required to work together in this field to address the complex physicochemical phenomena involved in the design and optimization of fuel cell systems. This multidisciplinary approach forces researchers to become accustomed to new concepts. Electrochemical processes, for example, constitute the heart of a fuel cell. Accurate modeling of electrochemical reactions is therefore essential to successfully predict the performance of these devices. However, becoming familiar with the complex concepts of electrochemistry can be an arduous task for those who approach the study of fuel cells from fields other than chemical engineering. This process can extend over time and requires careful reading of many textbooks and papers, the most illuminating ones being hidden to the newcomer in a plethora of recent publications on the subject. The authors, who engaged in the study of fuel cells coming from the field of mechanical engineering, had to travel this road once and, with this contribution, would like to make the journey easier for those who come behind. As an illustrative example, the thermodynamic and electrochemical principles reviewed in this chapter are applied to a complex electrochemical system, the direct ethanol fuel cell (DEFC), reviewing recent work on this problem and suggesting future research directions.
Part of the book: Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell