Optimization of catalyst layer thickness for achieving high performance and low cost of high temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cell

Lingchao Xia, Meng Ni, Qidong Xu, Haoran Xu, Keqing Zheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The thickness of catalyst layer (CL) determines the electrochemical performance and the cost of high temperature proton exchange membrane fuel cell (HT-PEMFC). However, various values (e.g. 100 μm, 50 μm, 10 μm) of CL thickness are reported in the previous studies. To identify the optimal CL thickness to reduce the PEMFC cost without sacrificing the electrochemical performance, it is necessary to first identify the effective reaction thickness (ERT) of both anode and cathode. A numerical non-isothermal 3D model was developed considering the activation loss, concentration loss and ohmic loss at two electrodes, respectively. After model validation, parametric analyses were performed to investigate the effects of temperature, working voltage and flow rate on the performance of the fuel cell, especially on ERT. It is found that the ERT increases with increasing temperature. The working voltage and the cathode flow rate have opposite influences on the ERT of the two electrodes. The ERT highly depends on the ratio of activation loss and concentration loss (ηact+ηconc) to ohmic loss ηohmic. Considering the utilization rate of the catalyst and cell performance, the appropriate CL thicknesses for anode and cathode electrode are 10–17 μm and 15–30 μm, respectively. This study clearly demonstrates that we can reduce the CL cost and maintain high fuel cell performance by carefully controlling the thickness of CL.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117012
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021


  • Active reaction thickness
  • Effective reaction area
  • Potential loss ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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