Impact of Interfacial Water Transport in PEMFCs on Cell Performance

Toshikazu Kotaka, Yuichiro Tabuchi, Ugur Pasaogullari, Chao Yang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Coupled cell performance evaluation, liquid water visualization by neutron radiography (NRG) and numerical modeling based on multiphase mixture (M2) model were performed with three types of GDMs: Micro Porous Layer (MPL) free; Carbon Paper (CP) with MPL; and CP free to investigate interfacial liquid water transport phenomena in PEMFCs and its effect on cell performance. The visualized results of MPL free GDM with different wettability of bi-polar plates (BPPs) showed hydrophilic BPP improved liquid water transport at the interface between CP and channel. Numerical modeling results indicated that this difference with BPP wettability was caused by the liquid water coverage difference on CP surface. Thus, controlling liquid water coverage is the one of the key strategies for improving cell performance. Additionally, liquid water distributions across the cell for three types of GDMs were compared and significant difference in liquid water content at the interface between Catalyst Layer (CL) and GDM was observed. Numerical modeling suggests this difference is influenced by the gap at the interface and that the MPL could minimize this effect. The CP free cell (i.e. only MPL) showed the best performance and the lowest liquid water content. There were multiple impacts of interfacial liquid water transport both at CL-GDM and GDM-channel interfaces. High hydrophobicity and fine structure of MPLs contributed to enhanced liquid water transport at GDM-channel interface and as a result reduced the liquid water coverage. At the same time, MPL improves contact at the CL-GDM interface in the same manner as seen in CP with MPL case. Thus, the CP free concept showed the best performance. It is suggested that the design of the interface between each component of the PEMFC has a great impact on cell performance and plays a signi.cant role in achievement of high current density operation and cost reduction in FCEVs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)618-629
Number of pages12
JournalElectrochimica Acta
StatePublished - Nov 10 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Electrochemistry


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