Anisotropic heat conduction effects in proton-exchange membrane fuel cells

Chaitanya J. Bapat, Stefan Thynell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The focus of this work is to study the effects of anisotropic thermal conductivity and thermal contact conductance on the overall temperature distribution inside a fuel cell. The gas-diffusion layers and membrane are expected to possess an anisotropic thermal conductivity, whereas a contact resistance is present between the current collectors and gas-diffusion layers. A two-dimensional single phase model is used to capture transport phenomena inside the cell. From the use of this model, it is predicted that the maximum temperatures inside the cell can be appreciably higher than the operating temperature of the cell. A high value of the in-plane thermal conductivity for the gas-diffusion layers was seen to be essential for achieving smaller temperature gradients. However, the maximum improvement in the heat transfer characteristics of the fuel cell brought about by increasing the in-plane thermal conductivity is limited by the presence of a finite thermal contact conductance at the diffusion layer/current collector interface. This was determined to be even more important for thin gas-diffusion layers. Anisotropic thermal conductivity of the membrane, however, did not have a significant impact on the temperature distribution. The thermal contact conductance at the diffusion layer/current collector interface strongly affected the temperature distribution inside the cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1118
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Heat Transfer
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Mechanical Engineering


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