The flooded agglomerate model has found prolific usage in modeling the oxygen reduction reaction within the cathode catalyst layer of a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). The assumption made in this model is that the ionomer-coated carbon-platinum agglomerate is spherical in shape and that the spheres are non-overlapping. This assumption is convenient because the governing equations lend themselves to closed-form analytical solution when a spherical shape is assumed. In reality, micrographs of the catalyst layer show that the agglomerates are best represented by sets of overlapping spheres of unequal radii. In this article, the flooded agglomerate is generalized by considering overlapping spheres of unequal radii. As a first cut, only two overlapping spheres are considered. The governing reaction-diffusion equations are solved numerically using the unstructured finite-volume method. The volumetric current density is extracted for various parametric variations, and tabulated. This sub-grid-scale generalized flooded agglomerate model is first validated and finally coupled to a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code for predicting the performance of the PEMFC. Results show that when the agglomerates are small (< 200 nm equivalent radius), the effect of agglomerate shape on the overall PEMFC performance is insignificant. For large agglomerates, on the other hand, the effect of agglomerate shape was found to be critical, especially for high current densities for which the mass transport resistance within the agglomerate is strongly dependent on the shape of the agglomerate, and was found to correlate well with the surface-to-volume ratio of the agglomerate.

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