The polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell is a zero emission power generation system that has long been considered as a replacement for conventional fossil fuel combustion systems. However, before constituting a viable market for commercial use, the fuel cell’s efficiency and reliability need to be improved significantly. It has been shown that water management has a significant effect on the power and reliability of the cell as the electrolyte membrane must be well hydrated to allow for ion transfer while excess water blocks the activation sites on the cathode side. The latter effect is known as flooding which occurs at large current densities and compromises the normal operation of the fuel cell. To enhance water management, a prodigious amount of studies have been conducted to optimize the properties and structures of different layers. One of the key results of these studies has been the design of a flow field pattern on the relatively hydrophobic surface of a graphite plate which is believed to provide a better mechanism for removing water droplets from the cathode flow channel. However, the wettability gradient between the catalyst layer (i.e., hydrophilic) and the flow channel (which is currently more hydrophobic) introduces problems as the water droplets formed at the catalyst layer will not likely detach, and hence create a film of liquid that will block the activation sites. If the flow channel is made out of a material that is more hydrophilic than the catalyst layer, water removal and transport will be enhanced as water naturally moves from low surface energy to high surface energy sites. However, recent numerical studies conducted on simulation of water transport in the channels show that removing the water film formed on the hydrophilic channels is limited due to the pressure of the gas flow in the channels. To resolve this problem, the use of compact aluminum foams in the flow channels is studied in this paper. It is shown that the hydrophilicity of the foam-filled flow channel helps the transport of the water droplets at the catalyst layer to the channel in which a liquid film is formed. This film is then removed due to the increased pressure developed in the porous media of the foam (as opposed to the regular open flow channel). The paper includes the experimental results obtained for the fuel cell performance using the new geometry with and without the gas diffusion layers (GDLs). These results will be compared to a similar flow channel that does not include the compressed aluminum porous structure. This work will result in finding the optimum geometry for achieving maximum performance in the flooding regime.

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