PEM Electrolyzer Characterization with Carbon-Based Hardware and Material Sets

James Young, Zhenye Kang, Fabrizio Ganci, Steven Madachy, Guido Bender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus Citations


The research and development of proton exchange membrane water electrolysis (PEMWE) is an upcoming and growing area due to a rising interest in hydrogen as an energy carrier. Operating conditions are harsher than in a fuel cell system, particularly because the potentials required for the oxygen evolution reaction are significantly higher. In commercial water electrolysis systems, this is compensated by typically using titanium material sets that are often protected against oxidation through coating processes. Such material choices make small scale research hardware and porous transport layers expensive and difficult to source. In this work, we show that the stability of traditional, carbon-based fuel cell materials such as porous transport layers and graphite flow fields can be sufficient for electrolyzer initial performance characterization procedures such as cell conditioning, a limited number of polarization curve measurements, and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. We identify and quantify the onset of carbon degradation in porous transport layers with regards to operating length and define a strategy that enables the utilization of standard fuel cell hardware for short-term PEMWE experiments. With the knowledge that existing fuel cell material sets can be applied to conduct electrolyzer research when adhering to such limitations, fuel cell research hardware and experience can be more readily transferred to the younger and rapidly growing electrolysis research field.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number106941
Number of pages5
JournalElectrochemistry Communications
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-78493


  • Carbon paper
  • Carbonorrosion
  • In situ characterization
  • Initial performance
  • Water electrolysis


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