On the limitations of volume-averaged descriptions of gas diffusion layers in the modeling of polymer electrolyte fuel cells

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Issue Date
2017
Authors
Garcia-Salaberri, Pablo A.
Gostick, Jeff T.
Zenyuk, Iryna V.
Hwang, Gisuk
Vera, Marcos
Weber, Adam Z.
Advisor
Citation

Garcia-Salaberri, Pablo A.; Gostick, Jeff T.; Zenyuk, I. V.; Hwang, Gisuk; Vera, Marcos; Weber, Adam Z. 2017. On the limitations of volume-averaged descriptions of gas diffusion layers in the modeling of polymer electrolyte fuel cells. ECS Trans, vol. 80:no. 8:pp 133-143

Abstract

Understanding of the coupled transport processes that occur in thin gas diffusion layers (GDLs) is necessary to develop improved designs. The traditional technique used to model GDLs is the volume-averaged approximation. However, the applicability of this approach has been long questioned, and the error in the results is unclear. In this work, the limitations of GDL volume-averaged models are examined under single-phase conditions. The lattice Boltzmann method is combined with tomography images of carbon-paper GDLs to assess the existence of a representative elementary volume (REV) in terms of various effective properties. Then, the predictions of GDL volume-averaged and pore-scale formulations are compared by using a CFD model of a differential cell. The results show that a REV cannot be clearly defined. This leads to inhomogeneities in the pore-scale model that the volume-averaged model is not able to capture despite the overall flux through the GDL is similar in both cases.

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