Ex-situ characterisation of gas diffusion layers for proton exchange membrane fuel cells

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Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Birmingham
  • University College London
  • University of the Western Cape


This paper presents the first part of a complete ex-situ characterisation of a wide range of commercial Gas Diffusion Layers (GDLs) used in low temperature and high temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Physical and electrical characteristics of the GDLs are reported. The results show that the substrate structure has a significant effect on the mechanical and electrical properties of the GDL. Moreover, the Micro Porous Layer (MPL) structure determines the roughness of the surface, and affects the permeability and porosity of the GDL. It was found that the substrate treatment with PTFE affects the GDL characteristics; PTFE loading increases the GDLs hydrophobicity and permeability, however, decreases its overall porosity and resistivity. Adding a MPL to the substrate, results in a decrease in porosity and permeability and an increase in resistivity. The contact resistance of the GDL and the bipolar plate increases when the GDL thickness and PTFE loading are increased. This technical paper shows a close relationship between GDL materials and their physical characteristics and highlights the importance of optimising GDLs for fuel cell applications.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-404
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2012