Impacts of PTL Coating Gaps on Cell Performance for PEM Water Electrolyzer: Article No. 122274

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The anode porous transport layer (PTL) is a critical component of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) water electrolyzers, providing electrical conduction and water/oxygen transport to the anode catalyst layer. Platinum group metal (PGM) coatings are applied to titanium PTLs to prevent oxidation and preserve conductivity. To implement PEM water electrolysis on a large scale, it is essential to minimize the cost of mass-manufactured cell components while ensuring that defects in materials and components do not adversely affect the performance of the cell. In this study, we created gaps in the Pt coatings that are typically applied to PTLs to understand their effects on cell performance and inform on fabrication tolerances. The PTL coatings were fabricated by sputter deposition of Pt, intentionally leaving uncoated regions in either large patches or thin strips. For either geometry, the cell performance decreased with the increasing fraction of the uncoated regions. However, PTLs containing multiple thin uncoated strips caused a less severe performance effect than PTLs with continuous uncoated regions of the same relative total area. Through analysis of cell performance, impedance, and 3D charge transport modelling, we demonstrate that both the anode catalyst layer and membrane play a role in distributing current to mitigate the impact of coating defects at a short length scale. These results allow to draw conclusions about the tolerance requirements with regards to PTL coating uniformity in terms of both the size and total area of defects.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-87456


  • charge transport
  • coating
  • defect
  • modelling
  • PEM water electrolyzer
  • porous transport layer


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