Heat transfer through the gas diffusion layer (GDL) of a PEM fuel cell is a key process in the design and operation a PEM fuel cell. The analysis of this process requires determination of the effective thermal conductivity as well as the thermal contact resistance between the GDL and adjacent surfaces/layers. In the present study, a guarded-hot-plate apparatus has been designed and built to measure the effective thermal conductivity and thermal contact resistance in GDLs under vacuum and atmospheric pressure. Toray carbon papers with the porosity of 78% and different thicknesses are used in the experiments under a wide range of compressive loads. Moreover, novel analytical models are developed for the effective thermal conductivity and thermal contact resistance and compared against the present experimental data. Results show good agreements between the experimental data and the analytical models. It is observed that the thermal contact resistance is the dominant component of the total thermal resistance and neglecting this phenomenon may result in enormous errors.

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