Carbon fiber based felt materials are widely used as gas diffusion layer (GDL) in fuel cells. Their transport properties can be adjusted by adding hydrophobic agents such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). We present a synchrotron X-ray tomographic study on the felt material Freudenberg H2315 with different PTFE finishing. In this study, we analyze changes in microstructure and shape of GDLs at increasing degree of compression which are related to their specific PTFE load. A dedicated compression device mimicking the channel-land pattern of the flowfield is used to reproduce the inhomogeneous compression found in a fuel cell. Transport relevant geometrical parameters such as porosity, pore size distribution and geometric tortuosity are calculated and consequences for media transport discussed. PTFE finishing results in a marked change of shape of compressed GDLs: surface is smoothed and the invasion of GDL fibers into the flow field channel strongly mitigated. Furthermore, the PTFE impacts the microstructure of the compressed GDL. The number of available wide transport paths is significantly increased as compared to the untreated material. These changes improve the transport capacity liquid water through the GDL and promote the discharge of liquid water droplets from the cell.
Journal of Power Sources – Elsevier
Published: Aug 30, 2016
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