The effects of gas diffusion layers structure on water transportation using X-ray computed tomography based Lattice Boltzmann method

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. The Gas Diffusion Layer (GDL) of a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) plays a crucial role in overall cell performance. It is responsible for the dissemination of reactant gasses from the gas supply channels to the reactant sites at the Catalyst Layer (CL), and the adequate removal of product water from reactant sites back to the gas channels. Existing research into water transport in GDLs has been simplified to 2D estimations of GDL structures or use virtual stochastic models. This work uses X-ray computed tomography (XCT) to reconstruct three types of GDL in a model. These models are then analysed via Lattice Boltzmann methods to understand the water transport behaviours under differing contact angles and pressure differences. In this study, the three GDL samples were tested over the contact angles of 60°, 80°, 90°, 100°, 120° and 140° under applied pressure differences of 5 kPa, 10 kPa and 15 kPa. By varying the contact angle and pressure difference, it was found that the transition between stable displacement and capillary fingering is not a gradual process. Hydrophilic contact angles in the region of 60° < θ < 90° showed stable displacement properties, whereas contact angles in the region of 100° < θ < 140° displayed capillary fingering characteristics.