The well-known challenges to overcome in PEM fuel cell research are their relatively low durability and the high costs for the platinum catalysts. This work focuses on degradation mechanisms that are present in open-cathode PEM fuel cell systems and their links to the decaying fuel cell performance. Therefore a degraded, open-cathode, 20 cell, PEM fuel cell stack was analyzed by means of in-situ and ex-situ techniques. Voltage transients during external perturbations, such as changing temperature, humidity and stoichiometry show that degradation affects individual cells quite differently towards the end of life of the stack. Cells located close to the endplates of the stack show the biggest performance decay. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) data present non-reversible catalyst layer degradation but negligible membrane degradation of several cells. Post-mortem, ex-situ experiments, such as cyclic voltammetry (CV), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) show a significant active area loss of the first cells within the stack due to Pt dissolution, oxidation and agglomeration. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of the degraded cells in comparison with the normally working cells in the stack show severe carbon corrosion of the cathode catalyst layers.


power system control.

Author keywords

PEMFC, open-cathode, degradation, in-situ and ex-situ experiments

Scientific reference

S. Strahl, N. Gasamans, J. Llorca and A.P. Husar. Experimental analysis of a degraded open-cathode PEM fuel cell stack. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 39(10): 5378–5387, 2014.