Effects of Various Parameters of Different Porous Transport Layers in Proton Exchange Membrane Water Electrolysis

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Porous transport layers (PTLs) play an important role in proton exchange membrane water electrolysis (PEMWE) cells. The PTL facilitates water and gas transport, as well as thermal and electrical conduction, and is required to sustain good contact with adjacent components. It is expected that using PTLs with variations in material properties such as structure, composition, thickness and wettability results in performance changes of the PEMWE. In this study, a general mathematical PEMWE model is developed that separates and analyzes the contributions of ohmic, activation, diffusion and Nernst potentials. For model validation, three inherently different anode PTL structures (carbon paper, sintered titanium particles, and titanium felt) are operated over a range of conditions. Additionally, the effects of PTL wettability were used to verify the model using Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) treated Toray papers with PTFE loading ranging from 0% to 20%. The modeling results of both PTFE treated and untreated materials show good agreement with the experimental data. Mass transport or diffusion loss is the primary reason for performance differences between PTFE treated and untreated PTLs. Sintered titanium PTLs with thicknesses above 1 mm suffer from up to 33% increased ohmic losses without indicating any obvious changes in activation and diffusion losses when compared to untreated PTLs. The losses of the cell increase when using PTFE treated Toray paper. Individual contributions are quantified and assigned to increased ohmic, activation, and diffusion losses. In conclusion, the proposed model offers insights into the overpotential contributions of a PEMWE. It is a useful tool for predicting performance of various PTL materials and can be applied for PTL development and optimization efforts.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number136641
Number of pages13
JournalElectrochimica Acta
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-77074


  • Loss separation
  • Mass transport
  • Overpotential
  • Porous transport layer
  • Proton exchange membrane water electrolysis


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