Inhomogeneous distribution of platinum and ionomer in the porous cathode to maximize the performance of a PEM fuel cell



A proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell model, accounting for the combined water transport mechanism, ionomer swelling, water phase-transfer, two-phase flow and transport processes, is developed. The inhomogeneous distributions of Pt and ionomer inside the catalyst layer (CL) are numerically studied to achieve an optimal cell performance for two types of oxygen reduction reaction catalysts at different loadings. Results indicate that the optimal variation in loading through the thickness of the electrode (slopes) of Pt catalyst and ionomer vary with conditions of operation. An optimal platinum slope increases the agglomerate effectiveness factor and decreases the second Damköhler number near the CL-membrane interface. An optimal ionomer slope increases the CL porosity near the GDL-CL interface and decreases the mass transport resistance of reactant through the ionomer film. Their interaction shows that the optimal platinum slope is a tradeoff between the electrochemical active surface area and porosity at high current densities. © 2017 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2017