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i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/he
Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting
liquid water transport in a proton exchange
membrane fuel cell
Xueke Wang a,b, Sitong Chen a,b, Zhaohu Fan c, Weiwei Li b, Shubo Wang b,
Xue Li b, Yang Zhao b, Tong Zhu a,**, Xiaofeng Xie b,*
a
School of Mechanical Engineering and Automation, Northeastern University, Shenyang, 110819, Liaoning, China
Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China
c
Department of Industrial Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA
b
article info
abstract
Article history:
A laser was used to perforate gas diffusion layer (GDL) that enhances liquid water transport
Received 2 May 2017
from the electrodes to the gas channels. The generated holes diameter is from 80 to 200 mm,
Received in revised form
and center-to-center spacing is from 1 to 3 mm. A three-dimensional numerical model,
16 August 2017
based on a level set method, was built to investigate the water transport characteristics
Accepted 18 August 2017
through the perforations with different diameters and spacing. Experiments and simula-
Available online xxx
tion results show that there is a better correlation among the diameter, spacing of the
perforation and the power density. When the perforation diameter is 100 mm and the
Keywords:
perforation pitch is 2 mm, the water transfer effect is the best which enhances the water
Water management
discharge effectively and avoids the liquid droplets obstructing the gas flow channel at the
Gas diffusion layer
same time. These results may assist in the design of GDL for water management in the
Laser perforation
operation of proton exchange membrane fuel cells.
Level set method
© 2017 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction
Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) have become
a promising candidate for replacing fossil fuel fed engines in
both stationary and mobile power sources, owing to their
zero-emission characteristics, high efficiency, and power
density. Nevertheless, effective water management is necessary in order to meet high fuel cell performance, reliability and
durability. From a water management perspective, the gas
diffusion layer (GDL) is a critical component, as it allows gas
transport toward the catalyst layer (CL) and aids water vapor
to reach the membrane increasing its ionic conductivity,
while enabling capillary transport of liquid away from the
electrodes to avoid severe performance losses caused by
flooding [1e4]. Therefore, proper tailoring of GDL is critical to
establish an optimal water management during PEMFC
operation.
Various approaches have been developed to enhance
water management in PEMFCs by tailoring the GDL. One of
the most effective approaches is hydrophobic treatment by
employing different hydrophobic agents, such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), and
fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) [5e7]. The hydrophobic
* Corresponding author. A316, INET, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
** Corresponding author. Northeastern University, Shenyang, Liaoning, China.
E-mail addresses: tongzhu@mail.neu.edu.cn (T. Zhu), xiexf@tsinghua.edu.cn (X. Xie).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
0360-3199/© 2017 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
2
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
agent is applied to the GDL in various ways: dipping, spraying
and brushing, etc [8]. A majority of the efforts were performed to analyze the effects of PTFE loading and developing
methods to optimize the ratio of hydrophobic [9e14]. It has
been reported the carbon paper with propriety PTFE content
reduces water saturation in the GDL, while higher content
causes poor gas transport and high electronic resistance. In
addition, the addition of a microporous layer (MPL) between
the GDL and CL has been shown to enhance water management, resulting in the improvement in fuel cell performance
[15e20]. In general, The MPL reduces contact resistance between the CL and the macroporous carbon substrate by
forming flat and uniform layer that is not permeable to the
catalyst particles.
Different from the previous method, a possibility to engineer the water transport within the GDL is based on artificially
creating pathways for water removal, leaving the remaining
regions free of water for improved gas diffusion. In the broad
sense, previous approaches can be categorized into two
groups: first, the approach of “local coating” is based on the
application of a hydrophobic coating to defined regions,
leaving the remaining (carbon fibers) uncoated. Cuenca et al.
[21,22] have developed a method to produce GDLs with
patterned wettability by means of the radiation grafting
method. A material design consisting of defined patterned
hydrophobic regions providing a dry transport pathway not
limited by mass transport (decreased tortuosity) for reactant
gases to reach the catalyst layer. Intermittent hydrophilic regions of the proposed material provide a separate pathway for
product water to leave the cell. Second, the approach of
perforation is using laser processing for adding perforations
throughout the whole porous material, the approach was
initially published by Gerteisenet al. and continued by other
groups [23e26]. Manahan et al. [24,25] applied a dual-layer
GDL (SGL 10BB, SGL group) with 100 mm and 300 mm lasercut holes to the cathode compartment and quantitatively
analyzed water mass through the MEA using neutron radiography testing.
Besides synchrotron radiography tomography to investigate the water transport in the perforated GDL, Alink et al. [26]
was realizing high resolution visualization of water transport
€ tter
in laser perforated GDL using an ex-situ SEM setup. Marko
et al. [27] and Haußmann [28] investigated water transport in
laser perforated GDL is by synchrotron radiography. In parallel
with experimental studies, a number of studies based on numerical simulation have also been carried out, there have
been studies investigating the liquid water transport in the
PEMFC itself including the membrane electrode assembly
(MEA) and the GDL and gas channel. However, few papers
have attempted to numerical simulation droplets generated
from the perforated GDL to the gas flow channel experimentally this dynamic behavior and its causes.
In this work, we seek to the optimal perforation diameter
and center-to-center spacing by combining perforated carbon
paper electrodes with a level set method to enhance performance of PEMFC and better understand the mass transport
properties with respect to the two-phase flow of air and water.
In addition, a detailed analysis and comparison of the system
performance for MPL perforation and only GDL perforation
electrodes was performed and the results are presented.
Experimentals
Laser-perforation
In order to determine the effects of hole size and spacing on
the fuel cell performance, SGL 25 BCH Carbon Papers were
perforated by using the HAN LASERY YLF-50, which operated
under 20 W output power, 20 kHz frequency, and 1500 m/s
marking speed. The perforations are located in the middle of
the channel with diameters varying from 80 mm to 200 mm, and
the spacing from 1 mm to 3 mm. The holes diameter and
spacing parameters are listed in Fig. 1. In addition, a schematic of the laser perforation and the SEM images of different
diameter holes are provided in Fig. 1.
Fuel cell and test station
A parallel serpentine flow of 25 cm2 single cell was used for the
experiments. The perforated GDLs were attached to cathode
side of the membrane electrode. The membrane electrode,
using a Nafion membrane NR 211 (DuPont Inc., USA) as the
electrolyte membrane, platinum loading were 0.45 mgPt/cm2
Pt on the cathode side and 0.2 mgPt/cm2 Pt on the anode side.
The stoichiometric ratio of the hydrogen and air were fixed at
1.5 and 5.0 for the test conditions. Gases were fully humidified
at 60 C and a pressure of 1 atm was used for all the
experiments.
Simulation method
Theory model
We employ level-set method to study the droplet movement
process inside PEMFC gas channels. In the level set method,
the level set function f is usually defined as the signed distance function to the interface. The Level Set use a level set
equation, a momentum transport equation and a continuity
equation for the level set variable.
vf
jVfj
þ u,Vf ¼ gV, fð1 fÞ
þ εVf
vt
Vf
r
h
i
vu
þ rðu,VÞu ¼ V, pI þ m Vu þ ðVuÞT þ Fst
vt
V,u ¼ 0
(1)
(2)
(3)
In the level-set Eq. (1), the function f is the range of 0e1. If
f < 0.5, then it corresponds to phase 1; whereas f > 0.5, corresponds to phase 2; g and ε are the stabilization parameters: ε
determines the thickness of the interface where f goes
smoothly from 0 to 1, and it should have the same order as the
computational mesh size of the elements where interface
propagates. The parameter g determines the amount of reinitialization of the level set function. A suitable value for g is
the maximum value of the velocity field of u.
In Eq. (2), r denotes density (kg/m3), u velocity (m/s), t time
(s), m dynamic viscosity (Pa$s), p pressure (Pa), and Fst the
surface tension force (N/m3).
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
3
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
Fig. 1 e a) Schematic representation of perforated carbon paper electrodes. b) SEM image of the different penetration hole
diameter with laser perforations. The table summarizes the cases studied that have different hole diameter and spacing
parameters.
r ¼ r1 þ ðr2 r1 Þf
(4)
m ¼ m1 þ ðm2 m1 Þf
(5)
where r1, r2, m1, and m2 are the densities and viscosities of Fluid
1 and Fluid 2.
The surface tension force acting on the interface between
the two fluids is
Fjst ¼ sdkn
(6)
generation and heat transfer. At the outflow boundary, the
pressure, no viscous stress condition is set. The bottom wall of
the channel is assumed to be the gas diffusion layer. The
wetted wall boundary condition applies to the walls of the
microchannel with the contact angle (q) specified as 130 . In
all, 232, 400 cells of the hexahedron grid were used for the
calculation. For the simulation cases, The operation conditions such as air velocity, water pressure at the inlet and
perforation diameter are shown in Table 2.
where s is the interfacial tension coefficient (N/m), d is a Dirac
delta function concentrated to the interface. The d function is
approximated by a smooth function according to
d ¼ 6jVfjjfð1 fÞj
(7)
The interfacial variables, the unit normal vector n and
curvature k are expressed as
n¼
Vf
jVfj
k ¼ V,njf¼0:5
(8)
(9)
Geometry and modeling method
The Level Set model was used to study the effect of the GDL
perforations size and spacing on the droplet dynamics in the
gas flow channel. Fig. 2 shows the 3D computational domain
used in this study, the channel is 0.8 mm high, 0.8 mm wide
and 10 mm long. Water gets into the channel via the pores.
Those pores, the spacing of which is 1 mm, have the same
thickness as the GDL. Besides, the exact size data are shown in
Table 1.
The flow in the gas channel was assumed as being unsteady, isothermal, and laminar 3D flows, with negligible heat
Fig. 2 e Computation domain.
Table 1 e The pores long(x), wide(y) and high sizes(z).
Case
1
2
3
4
X (mm)
Y (mm)
Z (mm)
80
100
160
200
80
100
160
200
190
190
190
190
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
4
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
Table 2 e Simulation case and operation parameter.
Case
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
X (mm)
80
100
160
200
100
100
100
Water inlet No.
1
1
1
1
3
2
1
3
3
3
3
4
4
4
5
5
5
5
5
6
7
7
7
7
7
For the simulation cases, the operation parameters are used as in
followings: Vair ¼ 2 m s1, Pwater ¼ 1000 pa, and Theta ¼ 130 .
Results and discussion
Effect of perforations size on performance and water
distribution
In order to study the effect of the perforated size on PEMFC
performance, the MEA with different perforated diameter
(80 mm, 100 mm, 160 mm, 200 mm) and the raw electrode were
tested at a temperature of 60 C with the hydrogen/air stoichiometry of 1.2/5.0, and anode/cathode humidity of 100/
100%. Fig. 3a and b shows the polarization curves and the
impedance curves, respectively. As seen from Fig. 3a, firstly,
compared with the different electrodes, the performance was
increased with the pore diameter increased until the diameter
was 100 mm, and then with the pore diameter increased it was
decreased. So the perforation size was 100 mm displayed the
best performance, which reached 851.52 mW cm2 at 60 C.
Fig. 3b depicts the impedance spectra for different perforated electrodes. The EIS spectra were measured by the galvanostatic mode at 1200 mA cm2. The Nyquist plot shows
two semicircles which correspond to the medium frequency
and low frequency region, respectively. While at the highest
frequencies, the impedance tends to the real axis at a resistance. As can be seen in Fig. 3b, at the highest frequencies
region, the impedance of the different perforated electrodes
are about equal, and the impedance value is almost the same
as the MEA electrode impedance. Therefore, the different
perforated electrodes almost do not change the impedance of
the MEA electrode. At the medium frequencies region, the
100 mm perforated electrodes has a minimum semidiameter,
however, others semicircles of perforated electrodes are very
similar with raw materials. This phenomenon is likely
resulting from a better balance of water output and intake that
reduces charge-transfer resistances under the 100 mm perforated electrodes [28]. At the low frequencies region, the
semicircles of the perforated electrodes of 80 mm, and 100 mm
are lower than the no perforated electrodes, however, the
semicircles of 160 mm and the 200 mm perforated electrode are
bigger than the no perforated electrodes. This semicircles size
is relevant to air mass-transport. The water is produced by
chemical reaction which gets through the GDL to gas channel,
and then can be blown away by air. When the diameter is
100 mm, this process happens most easiest. When the perforation size of the GDL is smaller than 100 mm, the water is
difficult to go through the GDL, which cause that the water
covers the surface of the catalyst and fills gaps in the GDL. On
the contrary, when the perforation size is bigger than 100 mm,
the water is so much that is very hard to blow away by the air
flow in the gas channel. An excess of water in the GDL and
channel is likely to cause flooding and reduce the availability
of oxygen. The processes that the water was produced during
chemical reaction through the GDL with different perforations
and got into the gas channel are further analyzed by using
level-set method in the following section.
Fig. 4 shows the droplets got into the channel through inlets in different diameters. The droplets inlets are No. 1, 3, 5
and 7. The Fig. 4 illustrates that the water content in the
channel rises with the inlets diameter of perforation electrodes increasing. This phenomenon can be explained as the
following Young-Laplace equation:
2g cosðqÞ
P ¼ pL pC ¼ r
(10)
Breakthrough pressure P, sometimes referred to as
threshold pressure, is related to the capillary pressure and is
determined predominately by the pore structure r and the
contact angle q between a liquid droplet and the GDL, g is the
surface tension of water, PL is the water pressure between
Fig. 3 e a) Performance measurements of a 25 cm2 test cell operated with fully humidified gases at 60 C showing the
polarization curves for the reference without perforation and the different perforation sizes. b) Impedance spectra for
different perforated electrodes under the same condition with polarization curve.
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
5
Fig. 4 e Droplet transfer process with different perforation sizes.
catalyst layer and gas diffusion layer, PC is the water pressure
between gas diffusion layer and gas channel.
Fig. 5 shows the droplet grow, split and finally merge into
larger slugs when liquid water is inlet from two different
diameter pores that are horizontally 2 mm apart. Because of
the relatively large distance between the pores, two droplets
grow independently of each other; the droplet split the small
droplet and spread along the flow channel without merging a
Fig. 5 e The droplet grow, split and finally merge into larger slugs when liquid water is inlet from two different diameter
inlets.
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
6
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
Fig. 6 e Time variation of a) volume fraction and b) surface coverage for the different penetration hole diameter.
larger droplet, when the hole diameters are 80 mm and 100 mm.
Nevertheless, as the hole diameter is 200 mm, they do not split
small droplet but coalesce and grow together lead to clog the
channel.
The temporal variations in liquid water saturation in the
gas channel (Vw) and the relative coverage of liquid water on
the GDL surface (Aw) are examined to quantify the water
droplet behaviors; the surface coverage ratio indicates the
fraction of GDL surface (aA) covered by water compared to the
total surface area, while the volume coverage ratio (aV) indicates the fraction of volume occupied by water compared to
the volume of the channel, which are defined as below. In
order to make a PEMFC more efficient, the surface and volume
coverage should be minimized.
Vw ¼
Aw ¼
1
Z
av dV
Vchannel
1
Abottom
Effect of perforations spacing on performance and water
distribution
(11)
Z
aA dA
pore produces a slightly lower surface and volume coverage
ratio compared to the 160 mm and 200 mm diameter, which is
an indication that 80 mm and 100 mm of inlets would allow
more oxygen to reach the reaction sites. After 5 ms, the surface and volume coverage ratio starts to fluctuate indicating a
very non-linear process, when the hole diameter is 160 mm
and 200 mm. It is also worth mentioning that when the inlet
diameter is smaller than 100 mm, an excess of water produced
by chemical reaction between the gas diffusion layer and
catalyst layer is difficult to through the gas diffusion layer,
leading to cover on the surface of the catalyst and fill gap of
gas diffusion layer.
(12)
Fig. 6 shows the variation of surface and volume coverage
ratio for different pore sizes. The 80 mm and 100 mm diameter
The effect of the perforations spacing on the cell performance
is shown in Fig. 7a. The experiments were conducted for the
perforated electrodes with 100 mm perforation at the different
spacing of 1 mm, 2 mm and 3 mm. As seen from Fig. 7a, the
performance was very similar for the current densities
ranging from 100 to 1000 mA cm2. However, above
Fig. 7 e a) Performance measurements of a 25 cm2 test cell operated with fully humidified gases at 60 C showing the
polarization curves for the perforations spacing. b) Impedance spectra for different perforated electrodes under the same
condition with polarization curve.
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
7
1000 mA cm2, the existence of significantly increased mass
transport losses due to the large perforations spacing, the
power density losses from 800 mW cm2 to 680 mW cm2
when the perforation spacing increasing from 1 mm or 2 mm
to 3 mm.
Fig. 7b shows impedance spectra at 1200 mA cm2, the
3 mm perforations spacing shows a bigger charge-transfer arc
and a bigger oxygen transport arc. In the higher frequency
regime, a bigger charge-transfer arc likely resulting from the
more water of the 3 mm perforations spacing electrodes
which reduce the area of catalyst at higher current, increasing
the charge transfer resistance. In the lower-frequency regime,
a bigger oxygen transport arc is resulting from the more water
in the GDL increase the oxygen-transport resistance.
Fig. 8 shows that the droplet, which get into the channel via
different inlets in spacing of 1 mm, 2 mm and 3 mm respectively, grows, split and discharge in the channel as the time
goes by. As is shown in Fig. 8 a), the droplet go through No.
3,4,5 inlet at first, while No. 1, 3, 5 in Fig. 8 b) and No. 1, 4, 7 in
Fig. 8 c). In every case, the droplets emerge from the pores and
grow, split, when the perforations spacing is 3 mm and 2 mm,
because of the relatively large distance between the pores,
droplets grow independently of each other and travel adrift
separately from their respective pores. When the perforations
spacing 1 mm, droplets coalesce with each other forming
slugs. Therefore, the perforation spacing 2 mm not only
discharge more water compare with the perforation spacing
3 mm, but also don't hinder the gas transmission.
Effect of MPL and GDL perforation performance
In order to study effect of MPL and GDL perforation on the fuel
cell performance, the MPL and GDL was perforated respectively. The generate holes diameter is 100 mm and the perforation spacing 2 mm. The perforated GDL and MPL is
assembled into the fuel cell as shown in Fig. 9.
Fig. 10a shows the effect of MPL perforation and GDL
perforation on the cell performance. As seen from this figure,
fuel cells equipped with MPL perforated gas diffusion media
show a higher voltage and power density than the GDL
perforated when current density is over 1600 mA cm2. This
indicated that the MPL modification had little influence on the
total transport resistance under low current density, while the
perforated MPL significantly reduced the transport resistance
when water starts to condense in electrode at the high current
density. The GDL modification cannot expel more water if the
MPL can not be perforated.
Fig. 10b illustrates that the perforation of MPL has a smaller
charge-transfer arc as well as a smaller oxygen-transport arc
at 1200 mA cm2. At higher current, when more water is being
generated in the cathode CL, the similar diameter, indicating
the MPL perforation enhances liquid water transport from the
electrode to the gas channels and therefore lowers mass
transport losses of oxygen through the porous media and
lowers charge transport losses through the CL. This result
agrees with the results in the Fig. 7a, which shows a higher
voltage and power density with MPL perforated gas diffusion
media.
Fig. 8 e a) Time evolution of liquid water interface for the
perforations spacing 1 mm. b) Time evolution of liquid
water interface for the perforations spacing 2 mm. c) Time
evolution of liquid water interface for the perforations
spacing 3 mm. Time evolution of liquid water interface for
the different of perforations spacing.
Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
8
i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f h y d r o g e n e n e r g y x x x ( 2 0 1 7 ) 1 e9
Fig. 9 e Schematic of the PEMFC of perforation MPL electrode and perforation GDL electrode.
Fig. 10 e a) Performance measurements of a 25 cm2 test cell operated with fully humidified gases at 60 C showing the
polarization curves for the MPL perforation and GDL perforation. b) Impedance spectra for different perforated electrodes
under the same condition with polarization curve.
Conclusions
Acknowledgments
We investigated the effects of various perforation diameter
and spacing of GDL on the water transport from GDL to gas
channel in PEMFC by employing polarization testing and
level set method. Both the experimental results and the
simulation results are shown the droplet grow, split and
finally merge into larger slugs when liquid water is inlet from
different diameter pores and perforation spacing. It is indicated that the pores of the GDL at about 100 mm and the
perforation spacing 2 mm is not only enhanced water
removal but also beneficial to gas transfer. Larger porosity
and shorter perforation distance do not split small droplet,
but coalesce and grow together lead to clog the channel. Too
small holes and long perforation spacing are difficult to
discharge excess water through the GDL. The PEMFC performance show the perforated MPL significantly reduced the
transport resistance when water starts to condense in electrode at the high current density. The results showed that
perforation diameter and perforation spacing respectively is
100 mm and 2 mm.
This work was supported by the program of Sino-Danish
Strategic Research Cooperation within Sustainable Energy,
the Intergovernmental International Scientific and Technological Innovation Cooperation Key Projects (2016YFE0102700).
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Please cite this article in press as: Wang X, et al., Laser-perforated gas diffusion layer for promoting liquid water transport in a proton
exchange membrane fuel cell, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.08.131
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