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Effects of Cathode Corrosion on Through-Plane Water Transport in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells



Daniel S. Hussey, Joseph Fairweather, Dusan Spernjak, Adam Weber, David Harvey, Silvia Wessell, David L. Jacobson, Kateryna Artyushkova, Rangachary Mukundan, Rodney Borup


The corrosion of carbon in the electrode supports of proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells leads to electrode collapse, reduced active catalyst area, and increased surface hydrophilicity. While these effects have been linked to performance degradation over cell lifetime,the role of corrosion in the evolving water balance has not been clear. In this study, neutron imaging was used to evaluate the through-plane water distribution within several cells over the course of accelerated stress testing using potential holds and square-wave cycling. A dramatic decreases in water retention was observed in each cell after the cathode w as severely corroded. The increasing hydrophilic effect of carbon surface oxidation (quantified by ex situ x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy) was overwhelmed by the drying effect of increased internal heat generation. To evaluate this mechanism, the various observed electrode changes are included in multiphase, non-isothernal one-dimensional cell model, and the simulated alterations to cell performance and water content are compared with those observed experimentally. Simulation results demonstrate that collapse and compaction of the catalyst layer is the dominant limitation to cell performance and not the lower amounts of active Pt surface area, and also show agreement with the higher temperature gradients resulting on drying out of the cell.
Journal of Electrochemical Society


carbon, corrosion, heate balance, gas diffusion layer, PEM fuel cell


, D. , Fairweather, J. , Spernjak, D. , Weber, A. , Harvey, D. , Wessell, S. , Duewer, D. , Artyushkova, K. , Mukundan, R. and Borup, R. (2021), Effects of Cathode Corrosion on Through-Plane Water Transport in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells, Journal of Electrochemical Society, [online], (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created April 21, 2021, Updated May 3, 2021