Modelling water intrusion and oxygen diffusion in a reconstructed microporous layer of PEM fuel cells

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


The hydrophobic microporous layer (MPL) in PEM fuel cell improves water management but reduces oxygen transport. We investigate these conflict impacts using nanotomography and pore-scale modelling. The binary image of a MPL is acquired using FIB/SEM tomography. The water produced at the cathode is assumed to condense in the catalyst layer (CL), and then builds up a pressure before moving into the MPL. Water distribution in the MPL is calculated from its pore geometry, and oxygen transport through it is simulated using pore-scale models considering both bulk and Knudsen diffusions. The simulated oxygen concentration and flux at all voxels are volumetrically averaged to calculate the effective diffusion coefficients. For water flow, we found that when the MPL is too hydrophobic, water is unable to move through it and must find alternative exits. For oxygen diffusion, we found that the interaction of the bulk and Knudsen diffusions at pore scale creates an extra resistance after the volumetric average, and that the conventional dusty model substantially overestimates the effective diffusion coefficient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17222-17230
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number30
Early online date5 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2014


  • Dusty model
  • FIB/SEM tomography
  • Micro-porous layer
  • PEM fuel cells
  • Pore-scale modelling
  • Saturation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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