Accurate information on the temperature field and associated heat transfer rates are particularly important in devising appropriate heat and water management strategies in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. An important parameter in fuel cell performance analysis is the effective thermal conductivity of the gas diffusion layer (GDL). Estimation of the effective thermal conductivity is complicated because of the random nature of the GDL micro structure. In the present study, a compact analytical model for evaluating the effective thermal conductivity of fibrous GDLs is developed. The model accounts for the salient geometric features, effects of bipolar pressure variation, gas rarefaction effects, and spreading resistance. The model predictions are in good agreement with existing experimental data over a wide range of porosities. Parametric studies are performed using the proposed model to investigate the effect of bipolar plate pressure, aspect ratio, fiber diameter, fiber angle, and operating temperature.

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