Modeling the effect of inhomogeneous compression of GDL on local transport phenomena in a PEM fuel cell

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Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences | D4 Julkaistu kehittämis- tai tutkimusraportti taikka -selvitys
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Helsinki University of Technology publications in engineering physics. A, Teknillisen korkeakoulun teknillisen fysiikan julkaisuja. A, 854
The effects of inhomogeneous compression of gas diffusion layers (GDLs) on local transport phenomena within a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell were studied theoretically. The inhomogeneous compression induced by the rib/channel structure of the flow field plate causes partial deformation of the GDLs and significantly affects material parameters. The results suggest that inhomogeneous compression does not significantly affect the polarization behavior or gas-phase mass transport. However, the effect of inhomogeneous compression on the current density distribution is evident. Local current density under the channel was substantially smaller than under the rib when inhomogeneous compression was taken into account, while the current density distribution was fairly uniform for the model which excluded the effect of inhomogeneous compression. This is caused by the changes in the selective current path, which is determined by the combinations of conductivities of components and contact resistance between them. Despite the highly uneven current distribution and variation in material parameters as a function of GDL thickness, the temperature profile was relatively even over the active area for both modeled cases, contrary to predictions in previous studies. However, an abnormally high current density significantly accelerates deterioration of the membrane and is critical in terms of cell durability. Therefore, fuel cells should be carefully designed to minimize the harmful effects of inhomogeneous compression.
inhomogeneous compression, gas diffusion layer, PEM fuel cell, mathematical model
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