The Effect of Membrane Casting Irregularities on Initial Fuel Cell Performance

Guido Bender, Michael Ulsh, Tequila Harris, Naveen Shrivastava, Abheek Chatterjee, Jason Porter, Adam Phillips, Jocelyn Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus Citations


Membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) may possess as-manufactured non-uniformities in any of its constituent components. This work studies casting irregularities located within the PEM to understand their potential impact on MEA initial performance. Membrane material was cast on a lab-scale polymer casting line operating either within or at the boundaries of the process window. The resulting membrane material was either pristine in the former case, or, in the latter case, contained air bubbles, cracks, and other irregularities, ranging in size from about 0.6 to 3 mm. Spatial polarization experiments were conducted using a 121-channel segmented fuel cell system, and thermal imaging was performed subsequently to map hydrogen crossover to spatial performance. While total-cell polarization data was minimally impacted by the irregularities, the spatial diagnostics showed local performance impacts that, in operation over time, could cause degradation in performance or earlier failure of the MEA. Such impacts could lead to these irregularities being classified as defects, i.e., manufacturing variations that should be identified and not included in a fuel cell stack. Classification of irregularities as defects will ultimately assist the industry by contributing to the development of threshold detection limits for in-line quality control diagnostics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)60-69
Number of pages10
JournalFuel Cells
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-74521


  • Defect
  • Infrared Thermography
  • Membrane Pinhole
  • Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells
  • Roll-to-roll Manufacturing
  • Segmented Cell


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