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Research Papers

Effect of Compression on the Water Management of a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell With Different Gas Diffusion Layers

[+] Author and Article Information
Zhongying Shi, Xia Wang, Laila Guessous

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 7(2), 021012 (Jan 11, 2010) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3177451 History: Received April 01, 2008; Revised February 24, 2009; Published January 11, 2010; Online January 11, 2010

The gas diffusion layer (GDL) plays an important role in maintaining suitable water management in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell. The properties of the gas diffusion layer, such as its porosity, permeability, wettability, and thickness, are affected by the shoulders of the bipolar plates due to the compression applied in the assembly process. Compression therefore influences the water management inside fuel cells. A two-phase fuel cell model was used to study the water management problem in a proton exchange membrane fuel cell with interdigitated flow channels. The effect of the compression on the fuel cell performance was numerically investigated for a variety of GDL parameters. This paper focuses on studying the water management of fuel cells under compression for various types of gas diffusion layers. First, the deformation of a gas diffusion layer due to compression applied from the shoulders of the bipolar plates was modeled as a plain-strain problem and was determined using finite element analysis (FEA). The porosity and the permeability of the gas diffusion layer were then recalculated based on the deformation results. Next, the deformed domain from the FEA model was coupled with a fuel cell model, and the effects of the compression during the assembly process on the water management and fuel cell performance were studied for gas diffusion layers with different thicknesses, porosities, and compressive moduli. It was found that the deformation of the GDL results in a low oxygen concentration at the reaction site. The saturation level of liquid water increases along the flow direction, and is higher when the compression effect is considered in the simulation.

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Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

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Figure 1

Two-dimensional fuel cell model geometry

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Figure 2

Polarization curve comparison with the experimental data

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Figure 12

Polarization curves of GDLs with different values of the compression modulus

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Figure 3

Porosity distribution in the cathode GDL

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Figure 4

Velocity distribution of the gas in the cathode GDL in m/s (top: without compression, bottom: with compression, arrow: velocity direction, color: velocity magnitude)

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Figure 5

Local current density and oxygen concentration along the catalyst layer

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Figure 6

Saturation distribution in the cathode electrode with and without compression

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Figure 7

Saturation distribution in the cathode electrode at different current densities

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Figure 8

Polarization curves using GDLs with different thicknesses before and after compression (porosity=0.3)

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Figure 9

Saturation distribution using GDLs with different thicknesses (porosity=0.3)

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Figure 10

Polarization curves using GDLs with porosities before and after compression

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Figure 11

Saturation distribution using GDLs with different porosities

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