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Effective transport properties for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells - With a focus on the gas diffusion layer. Review

: Zamel, N.; Li, X.G.


Progress in energy and combustion science 39 (2013), Nr.1, S.111-146
ISSN: 0360-1285
ISSN: 0360-3202
Fraunhofer ISE ()
Energietechnik; Wasserstoff- und Brennstoffzellentechnologie; Emissionsfreie Mobilität; Wasserstofftechnologie; Brennstoffzellensysteme; Brennstoffzellen-Mobilität

Multi-phase transport of reactant and product species, momentum, heat (energy), electron and proton in the components of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells forms the three inter-related circuits for mass, heat (energy) and electricity. These intertwined transport phenomena govern the operation and design, hence the performance, of such cells. The transport processes in the cell are usually determined with their respective effective transport properties due to the porous nature of PEM fuel cell components. These properties include the effective diffusion coefficient for the mass transfer, effective thermal conductivity for heat transfer, effective electronic conductivity for electron transfer, effective protonic conductivity for proton transfer, intrinsic and relative permeability for fluid flow, capillary pressure for liquid water transfer, etc. Accurate determination of these effective transport properties is essential for the operation and design of PEM fuel cells, especially at high current density operation. Thus, it is the focus of intensive research in the recent years. In this article, a review is provided for the determination of these effective transport properties through the various PEM fuel cell components, including the gas diffusion layer, microporous layer, catalyst layer and the electrolyte membrane layer. Given the simplicity of the GDL in structure compared to the other components of the cell, much more work in literature is focused on its transport properties. Hence, its review in this paper is more extensive. Various methods used for the determination of the effective transport properties with and without the presence of liquid water are reviewed, including experimental measurements, numerical modeling and theoretical analyses. Correlations are summarized for these transport properties, where available and further work in this area is provided as a direction for future work.