Coupled continuum and network model framework to study catalyst layers of polymer electrolyte fuel cells

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


The nanostructured thin film (NSTF) catalyst layers which have demonstrated high power densities, mass activities, and exceptional metal and support stability can have limited operational robustness due to their thin thickness and the hydrophilicity of the metal-coated nano whiskers. The dispersed nanostructured thin film (dNSTF) catalyst layers have been developed by dispersing the NSTF Pt whiskers with ionomer and carbon support to increase the thickness and hydrophobicity. Continuum and network models (NM) are coupled through boundary conditions to study the polymer electrolyte fuel cell with a dNSTF cathode catalyst layer. The coupled model combines the computational efficiency of the continuum model with the pore-scale information in the dNSTF cathode catalyst layer of the NM. It captures the special morphology of the partially ionomer/water covered cylindrical whiskers, as well as water percolation through the pore structures and their impact on the cell performance. We observe optimal ionomer coverage on whiskers to be 0.5, ionomer to carbon ratio to be 0.9 and higher whisker to carbon ratios to be desired.

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International Journal of Hydrogen Energy