Modelling the effect of inhomogeneous compression of GDL on local transport phenomena in a PEM fuel cell

I. Nitta (Corresponding Author), S. Karvonen, Olli Himanen, M. Mikkola

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    60 Citations (Scopus)


    The effects of inhomogeneous compression of gas diffusion layers (GDLs) on local transport phenomena within a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell were studied theoretically. The inhomogeneous compression induced by the rib/channel structure of the flow field plate causes partial deformation of the GDLs and significantly affects component parameters. The results suggest that inhomogeneous compression does not significantly affect the polarisation behaviour or gas–phase mass transport. However, the effect of inhomogeneous compression on the current density distribution is evident. Local current density under the channel was substantially smaller than that under the rib when inhomogeneous compression was taken into account, while the current density distribution was fairly uniform for the model which excluded the effect of inhomogeneous compression. This is caused by the changes in the selective current path, which is determined by the combination of conductivities of components and contact resistance between them. Despite the highly uneven current distribution and variation in material parametres as a function of GDL thickness, the temperature profile was relatively even over the active area for both the modelled cases, contrary to predictions in previous studies. However, an abnormally high current density significantly accelerates deterioration of the membrane and is critical in terms of cell durability. Therefore, fuel cells should be carefully designed to minimise the harmful effects of inhomogeneous compression.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)410-421
    Number of pages12
    JournalFuel Cells
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Gas diffusion layer
    • Inhomogeneous compression
    • Mathematical model
    • PEM fuel cell


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