Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Matthew M. Mench

Committee Members

Rao V. Arimilli, Kivanc Ekici, James Schmidhammer


Polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) are predicted by many as the most feasible alternative to heat engines and for battery replacement in automotive, portable, and stationary power applications. Fuel cell performance and durability are inseparably related to the presence of liquid water throughout the fuel cell system. To better understand the mechanical and thermal characterization of diffusion media (DM) is essential to PEFC DM design, optimization and production to improve water and thermal managements. Diffusion media are one of the important components in PEFCs in terms of the reactant permeability, the product permeability, the electronic conductivity, the heat conductivity, and the mechanical strength. Thermal conductivity is a particularly important parameter due to the interplay between heat and water management. The thickness of DM is one of the components that are highly dependable on compression. In this study, optical microscope was used to investigate the stress strain relationship. Nonlinear sharp increase in strain at initial compressive loading was observed. Thermal conductivity of all dry DM was found to increase with compression. Measured and predicted maximum thermal conductivity as a function of saturation for DM at 2MPa compression was performed. There was a significant increase in thermal conductivity with an increase in saturation. Thermal conductivity as a function of both compression and saturation was developed.

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