The anisotropic and heterogeneous effective thermal conductivity of the gas diffusion layer (GDL) of the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell was determined in the through-plane direction using an analytical thermal resistance model. The geometry of the GDL was reconstructed using porosity profiles obtained through microscale computed tomography imaging of four commercially available GDL materials. The effective thermal conductivity increases almost linearly with increasing bipolar plate compaction pressure. The effective thermal conductivity was also seen to increase with increasing GDL thickness as bulk porosity remained almost constant. The effect of the heterogeneous through-plane porosity distribution on the effective thermal conductivity is discussed. The outcomes of this work will provide insight into the effect of heterogeneity and anisotropy of the GDL on the thermal management required for improved PEMFC performance.

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