Effect of the PTFE content in the gas diffusion layer on water transport in polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs)

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The dynamic behavior of a liquid water droplet emerging and detaching from the surface of the gas diffusion layer (GDL) is investigated. The droplet growth and detachment are studied for different polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) contents within the GDL and for different superficial gas velocities flowing in the gas channel. To simulate the droplet behavior in the cathode and anode of an operating polymer electrolyte fuel cell, separate experiments are conducted with air and hydrogen being supplied in the gas channel, respectively. Both the superficial gas velocity and the PTFE content within the GDL are found to impact the droplet detachment diameter. Increasing the superficial gas velocity increases the drag force applied on the droplet sitting on the GDL surface. It is observed that the droplet detaches at a smaller diameter for higher superficial gas velocities. The droplets also detach at smaller diameters from GDLs with a higher amount of PTFE. Such observation is justified according to two different points of view: (1) heterogeneous through-plane PTFE distribution through the GDL and (2) reduced GDL surface roughness caused by PTFE loading.©2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Power Sources