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Estimating effective thermal conductivity in carbon paper diffusion media

: Zamel, N.; Li, X.G.; Shen, J.; Becker, J.; Wiegmann, A.


Chemical Engineering Science 65 (2010), Nr.13, S.3994-4006
ISSN: 0009-2509
Fraunhofer ITWM ()

Heat management is crucial to polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell commercialization. Numerical modeling is often used to simulate heat transfer in the various components of the cell and specifically the gas diffusion layer (GDL). Due to the porous nature of the gas diffusion layer and its complexity of anisotropy, the effect of the structure on the thermal conductivity is usually taken into account by introducing an effective thermal conductivity. In this study, the effective thermal conductivity of carbon paper diffusion media was estimated numerically. Carbon paper is often used as the GDL in PEM fuel cells due to its ability to efficiently transport electrons, heat and gaseous species. Using the GeoDict code, a realistic three-dimensional pore morphology of carbon paper was used as the modeling domain and the governing mathematical equations were solved using the commercial software package Fluent (6.3.26) and the ThermoDict solver. The geometrical effects on the effective thermal conductivity were investigated for different geometries. It was found that the effective thermal conductivity is highly sensitive to the geometry of the porous material under investigation. The effective thermal conductivity is much larger in the in-plane direction when compared with the value in the through-plane direction. Further, the change of the effective thermal conductivity due to porosity and compression was studied. Finally, correlations for the through-plane and in-plane effective thermal conductivity were developed.