Journal of Power Sources, Vol.283, 115-124, 2015
Gas diffusion layers coated with a microporous layer containing hydrophilic carbon nanotubes for performance enhancement of polymer electrolyte fuel cells under both low and high humidity conditions
Gas diffusion layers (GDLs) coated with a hydrophobic microporous layer (MPL) composed of carbon black and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) have been commonly used to improve the water management characteristics of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs). However, the hydrophobic MPL coated GDL designed to prevent dehydration of the membrane under low humidity conditions is generally inferior at reducing flooding under high humidity conditions. It is therefore important to develop a robust MPL coated GDL that can enhance the PEFC performance regardless of the humidity conditions. In the present study, a GDL coated with an MPL containing hydrophilic carbon nanotubes (CNTs) was developed. The less hydrophobic pores incorporating CNTs are effective at conserving the membrane humidity under low humidity conditions. The MPL with CNTs is also effective at expelling excess water from the catalyst layer while maintaining oxygen flow pathways from the GDL substrate, allowing the mean flow pore diameter to be decreased to 2 mu m without reducing the ability of the MPL to prevent flooding under high humidity conditions. An MPL coated GDL with a CNT content of 4 mass% exhibits significantly higher performance under both low and high humidity conditions than a hydrophobic MPL coated GDL. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.