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Understanding water management in platinum group metal-free electrodes using neutron imaging



Daniel S. Hussey, David L. Jacobson


Platinum group metal-free (PGM-free) catalysts are a low-cost alternative to expensive PGM catalysts for polymer electrolyte fuel cells. However, due to the low volumetric activity of PGM-free catalysts, the catalyst layer thickness of the PGM-free catalyst electrode is an order of magnitude higher than PGM based electrodes. The thick PGM-free electrodes suffer from increased transport resistance and poor water management, which ultimately limits the fuel cell performance. This manuscript presents the study of water management in the PGM-free electrodes to understand the transport limitations and improve fuel cell performance. In-operando neutron imaging is performed to estimate the water content in different components across the fuel cell thickness. Water saturation in thick PGM electrodes, with similar catalyst layer thickness to PGM-free electrodes, is lower than in the PGM-free electrodes irrespective of the operating conditions, due to high water retention by PGM-free catalysts. Improvements in fuel cell performance are accomplished by enhancing water removal from the flooded PGM-free electrode in three ways: (i) enhanced water removal with a novel microporous layer with hydrophilic pathways incorporated through hydrophilic additives, (ii) water removal through anode via novel GDL in the anode, and (iii) lower water saturation in PGM-free electrode structures with increased catalyst porosity.
Journal of Power Sources


Water imaging, Fuel cell, Pgm-free catalyst, Thick electrodes, Polymer electrolyte membranes


, D. and Duewer, D. (2021), Understanding water management in platinum group metal-free electrodes using neutron imaging, Journal of Power Sources, [online], (Accessed June 21, 2024)


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Created April 21, 2021