Experimental investigations were carried out to visualize the dynamic behavior (contact angle hysteresis and droplet shape) of liquid water droplets on carbon paper gas diffusion layers that are typically employed in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). The experimental technique mimicks the generation of liquid water and formation of droplets in an air shear flow at the gas diffusion layer – gas flow channel interface of a simulated PEMFC cathode. Images obtained of growing liquid water droplets yield information on the contact angle hysteresis and droplet height, which were subsequently used to map droplet “instability” diagrams. These instability diagrams provide quantitative guidance on liquid water droplet removal at the gas diffusion layer/gas flow channel interface under the conditions of interest. The experimentally mapped droplet diagrams are compared with those predicted using a simplified model based on a macroscopic force balance and reasonably good agreement is obtained.

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