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Performance loss of proton exchange membrane fuel cell due to hydrophobicity loss in gas diffusion layer: Analysis by multiscale approach combining pore network and performance modelling

Abstract : Loss of hydrophobicity in the gas diffusion layers (GDL) is sometimes suggested as a potential mechanism to explain in part the performance loss of PEMFC. The present study proposes a numerical methodology to analyse this effect by combining pore network modelling (PNM) and performance modelling (PM): the PNM/PM approach. PNM allows simulating the decrease of through-plane gas diffusion coefficient in the GDL as a function of the hydrophobicity loss, which is taken into account through the increase in the fraction of hydrophilic pores in GDL. Then PM based on Darcy equations allows simulating performance loss of PEMFC as a function of gas diffusion decay. This coupling shows that the loss of hydrophobic treatment increases flooding, decreases performance, and increases current density heterogeneities between inlet and outlet of the cell. Interestingly, this degradation is found to be highly non-linear, mainly because of the non-linear influence of the fraction of hydrophilic pores on gas diffusion (this is due to the existence of a percolation threshold associated with the hydrophilic pore sub-network) as well as the non-linear behaviour of electrochemistry with gas diffusion. This study also shows that the loss of hydrophobicity in a GDL is a very suitable candidate to explain performance loss rates that are classically observed during long-term tests. The proposed methodology may also help linking other local properties of components to fuel cell global performance.
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Joel Pauchet, Marc Prat, Pascal Schott, Srijith Pulloor Kuttanikkad. Performance loss of proton exchange membrane fuel cell due to hydrophobicity loss in gas diffusion layer: Analysis by multiscale approach combining pore network and performance modelling. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Elsevier, 2012, vol. 37, pp. 1628-1641. ⟨10.1016/j.ijhydene.2011.09.127⟩. ⟨hal-00925579⟩

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