International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Vol.44, No.33, 18330-18339, 2019
Characterization methodology for anode starvation in HT-PEM fuel cells
Degradation caused by fuel starvation may be an important reason for limited fuel cell lifetimes. In this work, we present an analytical characterization of the high temperature polymer exchange membrane fuel cell (HT-PEM FC) behavior under cycled anode starvation and subsequent regeneration conditions to investigate the impact of degradation due to H-2 starvation. Two membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with an active area of 21 cm(2) were operated of up to 550 min, which included up to 14 starvation/regeneration cycles. Overall cell voltage as well as current density distribution (S++ unit) were measured simultaneously each minute during FC operation. The cyclicity of experiments was used to check the long term durability of the HT-PEM FC. After FC operation, micro-computed tomography (mu-CT) was applied to evaluate the influence of starvation on anode and cathode catalyst layer thicknesses. During starvation, cell voltage and current density distribution over the active area of the MEA significantly differed from nominal conditions. A significant drop in cell voltage from 0.6 to 0.1 V occurred after approx. 20 min for the first starvation step, and after 10 min for all subsequent starvation steps. By contrast, the voltage response is immediately stable at 0.6 V during every regeneration step. During each starvation, the local current density reached up to 0.3 A.point(-1) at the area near the gas inlet (9 cm(2)) while near the outlet it drops to 0.01 A.point(-1). The deviation from a balanced current density distribution occurred after 10 min for the first starvation step, and after ca. 2 min for the subsequent starvation steps. Hence, compared to the voltage drop, the deviation from a balanced current density distribution always starts earlier. This indicates that the local current density distribution is more sensitive to local changes in the MEA than overal cell voltage drop. This finding may help to prevent undesirable influences of the starvation process. The mu-CT images showed that H-2 starvation lead to thickness decrease of ca. 20-30% in both anode and cathode catalyst layers compared to a fresh MEA. Despite of the 14 starvation steps and the thinning of the catalyst layers the MEA presents stable cell voltage during regeneration. (C) 2019 Hydrogen Energy Publications LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.