Impact of Electrode Thick Spot Irregularities on Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell Initial Performance

Min Wang, Grace Rome, Samantha Medina, Jason Pfeilsticker, Zhenye Kang, Svitlana Pylypenko, Michael Ulsh, Guido Bender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus Citations


Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells have great potential for power generation in many applications, but to implement them on a larger scale, understanding of quality requirements, tolerances, and controls during manufacturing must improve. As part of this broad challenge, irregularities resulting from the membrane electrode assembly production process must be studied to determine if they impact the performance of the cell. One potential irregularity is a locally increased thickness of the coated or deposited electrode. In order to understand and provide insight into the impact of such irregularities, we intentionally created thick spots in the center of cathode electrodes. The thick spots fabricated by two different approaches were carefully characterized by optical microscopy, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The impact of the thick spots on the electrochemically active catalyst area and mass activity was minimal. However, specific electrode thick spot irregularities significantly impacted the mass transport properties of the cells. Based on SEM analysis, the likely cause of the performance drop is morphological changes associated with the creation of the thick spot irregularity. Spatial performance results obtained with a segmented cell system further indicated that the area of the performance impact exceeded that of the intentionally created thick spot.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number228344
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Power Sources
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-76369


  • Electrode irregularities
  • MEA structure
  • Segmented cell
  • Spatial performance


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