Effects of hydrophobic treatment and micro-porous layer (MPL) addition to a gas diffusion layer (GDL) in a polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) have been investigated from water balance analysis at the electrode (catalyst layer), GDL and flow channel in the cathode after a simulated start-up operation. The water balance is directly analyzed by measuring the weight of the adherent water wiped away from each the component. As a result, we find that hydrophobic treatment without MPL leads to the increase in liquid water accumulation at the electrode which limits the oxygen transport to the catalyst and then lowers the cell voltage rapidly during start-up, whereas the treatment decreases the water at the GDL. The water accumulation at the electrode also decreases the cumulative current that represents the power generation and calorific power indispensable for warming up at a temperature below freezing point. On the other hand, we directly find that the hydrophobic treatment with MPL addition suppresses the water accumulation at the electrode, which increases the cumulative current. In addition, it is found that increase in air permeability of a GDL substrate by its coarser structure increases the cumulative current, which is explained by enhancing the exhaust of the product water vapor and liquid as well as by enhancing the oxygen transport directly. Thus, the hydrophobic treatment with MPL addition and larger air permeability of a GDL substrate improve the start-up performance of a PEFC.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering