Proton exchange membranes (PEMs) in operating fuel cells are subjected to varying thermal and hygral loads while under mechanical constraint imposed within the compressed stack. Swelling during hygrothermal cycles can result in residual in-plane tensile stresses in the membrane and lead to mechanical degradation or failure through thinning or pinhole development. Numerical models can predict the stresses resulting from applied loads based on material characteristics, thus helping to guide the development of more durable membrane materials. In this work, a non-linear viscoelastic stress model based on the Schapery constitutive formulation is used with a Zapas-Crissman viscoplastic term to describe the response of a novel membrane material comprised of a blend of perfluorocyclobutane (PFCB) ionomer and polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF). Uniaxial creep and recovery tests are used to establish the time dependent linear viscoelastic modulus as well as the fitting parameters for the non-linear viscoelastic viscoplastic model. The stress model is implemented in a commercial finite element code, Abaqus®, to predict the response of a membrane subjected to mechanical loads. The stress model is validated by comparing predicted and experimental responses for membranes subjected to stress relaxation and multiple step creep loads in uniaxial tension.

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