Sandia National Laboratories
Fuel Cells
Water Treatment
Gas Separation
PEM Materials
RO Membranes
Liquid H2O Transport
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Liquid H2O Transport

We employ both experimental investigations and computational tools in order to elucidate and understand the fundamental phenomena occurring in proton exchange membrane fuel cells.  The experimental work informs the physical and computer models and provides validation for the computational efforts.  The computational models can be employed to simulate performance and analyze durability of PEMFCs under different operating conditions.  The significance of our activities is that that the fundamental understanding and knowledge gained and tools developed can guide and facilitate the optimization of MEAs so as to improve their performance and durability.  In this “phenomena-centric” approach to studying the processes of the membrane electrode assembly and whole fuel cell, we strive to understand the phenomena in each component of the PEMFC and then use that fundamental knowledge to construct performance models on multiple scales from catalyst layers to stacks. 

A key aspect of our work deals with understanding the role of liquid water in proton exchange membrane fuel cells.  Understanding liquid water content and its distribution within an operating proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) is critical to designing high performance systems and formulating rational models for simulating PEMFC behavior.  The generation, transport, and removal of liquid water are key phenomena that occur in a PEMFC.  Effective water transport through and removal from the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is crucial to achieving high current density and maintaining PEMFC performance.  In the design and optimization of PEMFCs, it is important to be able to quantify the water content in an operating cell in order to gain insight into the dominant phenomena or processes that influence liquid water transport and removal. 

Experimental tools include confocal imaging of porous bodies, segmented cell for current density distribution, humidity sensing and liquid water collection for water balance, GDL contact angle and contact angle hysteresis, neutron imaging, and a transparent cell.

Please see the fact sheets below for further details on our research.

Segmented Cell for meauring Current Density Distribution

Transparent Cell for Visualization of Flow
in Gas Channels


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Ken S. Chen

Principal Member of the Technical Staff
(505) 844-5783

Michael Hickner

Senior Member of the Technical Staff

(505) 844-2002

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Last modified: February 23, 2006