Synchrotron investigation of water distribution in fuel cells and correlation to properties and performance
Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electrical power through an electrochemical reaction, producing water and heat. These fuel cells have been considered for automotive powertrain applications. In this proposed work, a set of varying PEMFC materials will be investigated to advance the performance of PEM fuel cells. The fuel cells will be run under a wide range of operating conditions, including temperature, pressure, inlet gas relative humidity as well as compression pressure. The fuel cell performance is characterized using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, limiting current techniques, and polarization curves. The fuel cells will be tested at the Canadian Light Source, to perform in operando synchrotron X-ray radiography, which is used to detect and map the distribution of liquid water within the fuel cell. The water poses an increase in resistance and thereby reduction in available performance from the fuel cell. This investigation will provide insight into the water distribution and its impact on the cell performance over the applicable range of operating conditions.