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Gas Diffusion Layers (GDL) are one of the components in different types of fuel cells including, but not limited, to Proton Exchange Membrane and Direct Methanol fuel cells. Gas Diffusion Layers serve to provide conductivity in the cell and control the contact between the reactant gases and the catalyst. This layer also aids in managing the water transport out of the membrane. Another essential function of a GDL is to provide a connection between the membrane electrode assembly and graphite plates in the fuel cell stack.
Fuel cells have now been under development for several decades. Since I first became interested in fuel cells in the 1990’s, I have seen waves of excitement and investment followed by periods of skepticism and disillusionment. Only a few companies have stayed in the game, with Ballard in Canada and the large automakers such as Toyota being a critical and essential part for...
Many automotive manufacturers have chosen fuel cell technology as the long-term solution to replace combustion engines when the oil stops flowing -- but that’s not expected to happen for at least another 15 years (even if we keep using it at our current rate). So why are we...
Fuel cell vehicles (FCV) use fuel cells to power the vehicle’s electric motor. Many FCVs use a fuel cell combined with a battery and supercapacitor to efficiently start-up, power, and utilize the best energy source for constant and peak power. In FCVs, the fuel cell uses oxygen from...
The fuel cell electrode layer is made up of the catalyst and porous gas diffusion layer. When the fuel in the flow channels meets the electrode layer, it diffuses into the porous electrode. The reactant travels to the catalyst layer where it is broken into protons and electrons. The electrons move to the...
Fuel cells are not limited to pure hydrogen gas as fuel. Each type of fuel cell stack has different fuel tolerances. The lower the operating temperature of the stack, the stricter the requirements for pure fuel. For fuels other than pure hydrogen, an external fuel processing system may...
The gas diffusion layer (GDL) in a fuel cell can consist of a single layer or a double layer (gas diffusion layer and a microporous layer). The GDL is an essential part of the fuel cell because it causes the gases to spread out to maximize the contact surface area with the catalyst...
When a PV cell is exposed to sunlight, the photons of the absorbed sunlight dislodge the electrons from the atoms of the cell. The free electrons then move through the cell, creating and filling in holes. It is this movement of electrons and holes that generate electricity. The process of converting...
Most of us are familiar with solar cells because we encounter them every day – in calculators, street lamps, and traffic road signs. If these devices have enough light, they can theoretically work forever. Solar or photovoltaic (PV) cells are made up of many individuals cell stacked together. The cell material is a...
There are many novel hydrogen methods that are currently being investigated that offer the potential for higher energy density than conventional methods. These include hydrogen storage in carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are unique structures with exceptional electronic and...
Fuel cells produce electricity from reactants such as oxygen and hydrogen -- although other fuels besides hydrogen can be used. The electrochemical reaction produces water and heat as byproducts. Fuel cells are much more efficient than the internal combustion engine because they provide more...
Low-temperature fuel cells have historically used CNC-machined graphite as bipolar plates. Graphite’s high-cost, high-permeability, and precise machining processes have presented difficulties for the large-scale market. Due to this, many other materials have been investigated, including carbon composite materials and...
In a previous blog post, we described bipolar plates and the associated materials for low-temperature fuel cells. The materials previously described are selected for fuel cell stacks at or slightly above room-temperature -- which means that the materials are chemically compatible with the stack between 0 – 140 °C. The fuel cells that operate at higher temperatures require...