Lattice Boltzmann simulation of water and gas flow in porous gas diffusion layers in fuel cells reconstructed from micro-tomography

Yuan Gao*, Xiaoxian Zhang, Pratp Rama, Rui Chen, Hossein Ostadi, Kyle Jiang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The porous gas diffusion layers (GDLs) are key components in hydrogen fuel cells. During their operation the cells produce water at the cathode, and to avoid flooding, the water has to be removed out of the cells. How to manage the water is therefore an important issue in fuel cell design. In this paper we investigated water flow in the GDLs using a combination of the lattice Boltzmann method and X-ray computed tomography at the micron scale. Water flow in the GDL depends on water-air surface tension and hydrophobicity. To correctly represent the water-gas surface tension, the formations of water droplets in air were simulated, and the water-gas surface tension was obtained by fitting the simulated results to the Young-Laplace formula. The hydrophobicity is represented by the water-gas-fabric contact angle. For a given water-gas surface tension the value of the contact angle was determined by simulating the formations of water droplets on a solid surface with different hydrophobicity. We then applied the model to simulate water intrusion into initially dry GDLs driven by a pressure gradient in attempts to understand the impact of hydrophobicity on water distribution in the GDLs. The structures of the GDL were acquired by X-ray micro-tomography at a resolution of 1.7 microns. The simulated results revealed that with an increase in hydrophobicity, water transport in GDLs changes from piston-flow to channelled flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)891-900
Number of pages10
JournalComputers and Mathematics with Applications
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • Gas diffusion layer
  • Hydrophobicity
  • Lattice Boltzmann method
  • Two-phase flow
  • X-ray computed tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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