Research Papers

Pore Structure Modeling of Flow in Gas Diffusion Layers of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Z. Shi, X. Wang

Department of Mechanical Engineering,  Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309-4401

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 9(2), 021001 (Mar 19, 2012) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4005613 History: Received April 16, 2010; Revised October 05, 2011; Published March 07, 2012; Online March 19, 2012

The gas diffusion layer (GDL) in a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell has a porous structure with anisotropic and non-homogenous properties. The objective of this research is to develop a PEM fuel cell model where transport phenomena in the GDL are simulated based on GDL’s pore structure. The GDL pore structure was obtained by using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). GDL’s cross-section view instead of surface view was scanned under the SEM. The SEM image was then processed using an image processing tool to obtain a two-dimensional computational domain. This pore structure model was then coupled with an electrochemical model to predict the overall fuel cell performance. The transport phenomena in the GDL were simulated by solving the Navier-Stokes equation directly in the GDL pore structure. By comparing with the testing data, the fuel cell model predicted a reasonable fuel cell polarization curve. The pore structure model was further used to calculate the GDL permeability. The numerically predicted permeability was close to the value published in the literature. A future application of the current pore structure model is to predict GDL thermal and electric related properties.

Copyright © 2012 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

GDL SEM image-surface

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Figure 2

GDL SEM image-cross section view

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Figure 3

GDL SEM image converted into binary format-cross section view

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Figure 4

GDL pore scale structure contour line

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Figure 5

Computational domain of the pore structure based model, (a) a 3D PEM fuel cell with interdigitated flow fields, (b) a cross-sectional view of PEM fuel cell, (c) PEM fuel cell model computational domain

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Figure 6

Base case model polarization curve comparison

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Figure 7

Pressure and velocity distribution in cathode GDL

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Figure 8

Oxygen mass fraction in cathode GDL

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Figure 10

Computational domain for porous GDL permeability

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Figure 9

Water mass fraction in cathode GDL



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