Asymmetric gas diffusion media (GDM) pairing, which feature distinct GDM at the anode and cathode of the proton electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), enhance water management compared to symmetric pairing of GDM (anode and cathode GDM are identical). An asymmetric pairing of Freudenberg GDM (H24C3 at anode and H23C2 at cathode) reduces ohmic resistances by up to 40% and oxygen transport resistances by 14% en route to 25% higher current density in dry gas flows. The asymmetric GDM pairing effectively hydrates the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) while minimizing liquid water saturation in the cathode compared to a commonly used symmetric GDM pairing of SGL 29BC at the anode and cathode. Superior water management observed with asymmetric GDM in flow-through mode is also realized in dead-ended anode (DEA) mode. Compared to the symmetric GDM pairing, the asymmetric GDM pairing with Freudenberg GDM increases cell voltage at all current densities, extends and stabilizes steady-state voltage behavior, slows voltage decay, and vastly reduces the frequency of anode purge events. These results support that the asymmetric Freudenberg GDM combination renders the PEMFC less prone to anode water saturation and performance loss from the anticipated increase in water back-diffusion during DEA mode operation.
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