The cathode catalyst layer (CL), due to sluggish oxygen reduction reaction and several transport losses therein, plays an important role in the overall performance of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs). The relative volume fractions of the constituent phases, i.e. the electronic, electrolyte and void phases, of the cathode CL need to be selected appropriately in order to achieve an optimal balance between oxygen diffusion and proton conduction. In this work, the influence of electrolyte and void phase fractions of the cathode CL on the cell performance is investigated based on a pore-level description of species and charge transport through a random CL microstructure via the direct numerical simulation (DNS) model. Additionally, the effects of inlet relative humidity and net water transport from the anode on the cathode performance have been studied which indicate the interdependence between the CL composition and the cell operating conditions. The results indicate that the low humidity operation benefits the performance by enhancing the oxygen transport especially under high current densities. Finally, the DNS model predicts the volume fractions of 0.4 and 0.26 for the void and electrolyte phases, respectively, as the optimal composition of the catalyst layer for the best performance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Chemical Engineering(all)