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Foundation :: Engineering Applications :: GCTool


General Computational Toolkit for Fuel Cell Analysis

GCTool graphic Moderators:
Howard Geyer
Rajesh Ahluwalia

The General Computational Toolkit (GCTool)is a software package developed specifically for designing, analyzing, and comparing fuel cell systems and other power-plant configurations, including automotive, space-based, and stationary systems. GCtool provides a convenient, flexible framework for integrating various component models, in C or any C-linkable language, into simple or complex system configurations. A library of models for subcomponents and property tables common to many different systems and powertrains are available, and users can easily add their own models as needed.

The program’s great strength is its flexibility – it can be used to define arbitrary system configurations, handling models of any level of sophistication and permitting arbitrary flows, system/subsystem decomposition, and system constraints. It performs both steady-state and dynamic analyses, allows unlimited parameter sweeps, and performs constrained optimizations (in contrast to conventional programs, where specifying constraints has often been a problem). Users need not run GCtool over and over again to examine each individual change in system parameters; looping statements and other logical functions automate the process.

GCtool’s C-language interpreter and model design (each model is really just a data structure in C and a collection of functions) support rapid system prototyping. The software achieves rapid turnaround times in interfacing with component models, both those precompiled by Argonne and custom models created by the user. Models can be in any C-linkable language, at any level of complexity (from lumped to three-dimensional).

The GCtool environment is highly user-friendly; usually, users are capable of actively programming in less than a week. System configurations are set up with point-and-click features, using on-screen graphics; model parameters are easily changed; and pop-up windows are used to edit system configurations and for line and surface plots. Other important features include the following:
  • The model library offers four different types of fuel cells — proton exchange membrane (PEM), molten carbonate, phosphoric acid, and solid oxide cells. Other ready-to-use component models include various kinds of heat exchangers (heat pipes, condenser, thermal radiator, etc.), fluid devices (splitter, nozzles, diffuser, gas turbine, pump, etc.), reactors and reformers, and vehicle systems (including an electric motor and generator).

  • The property codes include a fast gas-phase chemical equilibrium code capable of handling an arbitrary number of species, a multiphase chemical equilibrium code, one for condensable pure substances, and a steam/water code. Special-purpose procedures are also available for dealing with sodium and potassium.

  • GCtool uses a system of “stacks” – the gas stack, shaft stack, power stack, etc. – to pass information between models; each model takes from a given stack the inputs it requires and adds to the stack the outputs it generates.

  • The program’s powerful mathematical utilities include a nonlinear equation solver, a constrained nonlinear optimizer (which handles both linear and nonlinear constraints), an integrator, and a solver for ordinary differential equations.

Technical Details
Major technical features and advantages of GCtool include the following:
  • Interpreted front end for rapid systems prototyping

  • Graphical user interface for editing system diagrams

  • Can be used on a personal computer with Windows 95, 98, or NT

  • Detailed manual with examples

   More software from Argonne National Laboratory

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