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Improved Modeling and Understanding of Diffusion-Media Wettability on Polymer-Electrolyte-Fuel-Cell Performance

Abstract

A macroscopic-modeling methodology to account for the chemical and structural properties of fuel-cell diffusion media is developed. A previous model is updated to include for the first time the use of experimentally measured capillary pressure -- saturation relationships through the introduction of a Gaussian contact-angle distribution into the property equations. The updated model is used to simulate various limiting-case scenarios of water and gas transport in fuel-cell diffusion media. Analysis of these results demonstrate that interfacial conditions are more important than bulk transport in these layers, where the associated mass-transfer resistance is the result of higher capillary pressures at the boundaries and the steepness of the capillary pressure -- saturation relationship. The model is also used to examine the impact of a microporous layer, showing that it dominates the response of the overall diffusion medium. In addition, its primary mass-transfer-related effect is suggested to be limiting the water-injection sites into the more porous gas-diffusion layer.

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