Loughborough University
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Simulation study on PEM fuel cell gas diffusion layers using x-ray tomography based Lattice Boltzmann method

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posted on 2012-01-10, 13:46 authored by Yu Liu
The Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell has a great potential in leading the future energy generation due to its advantages of zero emissions, higher power density and efficiency. For a PEM fuel cell, the Membrane-Electrode Assembly (MEA) is the key component which consists of a membrane, two catalyst layers and two gas diffusion layers (GDL). The success of optimum PEM fuel cell power output relies on the mass transport to the electrode especially on the cathode side. The carbon based GDL is one of the most important components in the fuel cell since it has one of the basic roles of providing path ways for reactant gases transport to the catalyst layer as well as excess water removal. A detailed understanding and visualization of the GDL from micro-scale level is limited by traditional numerical tool such as CFD and experimental methods due to the complex geometry of the porous GDL structural. In order to take the actual geometry information of the porous GDL into consideration, the x-ray tomography technique is employed which is able to reconstructed the actual structure of the carbon paper or carbon cloth GDLs to three-dimensional digital binary image which can be read directly by the LB model to carry out the simulation. This research work contributes to develop the combined methodology of x-ray tomography based the three-dimensional single phase Lattice Boltzmann (LB) simulation. This newly developed methodology demonstrates its capacity of simulating the flow characteristics and transport phenomena in the porous media by dealing with collision of the particles at pore-scale. The results reveal the heterogeneous nature of the GDL structures which influence the transportation of the reactants in terms of physical parameters of the GDLs such as porosity, permeability and tortuosity. The compression effects on the carbon cloth GDLs have been investigated. The results show that the c applied compression pressure on the GDLs will have negative effects on average pore size, porosity as well as through-plane permeability. A compression pressure range is suggested by the results which gives optimum in-plane permeability to through-plane permeability. The compression effects on one-dimensional water and oxygen partial pressures in the main flow direction have been studied at low, medium and high current densities. It s been observed that the water and oxygen pressure drop across the GDL increase with increasing the compression pressure. Key Words: PEM fuel cell, GDL, LB simulation, SPSC, SPMC, x-ray tomography, carbon paper, carbon cloth, porosity, permeability, degree of anisotropy, tortuosity, flow transport.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


© Yu Liu

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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