Kulkarni, N.; Cho, J.I.S.; Rasha, L.; Owen, R.E.; Wu, Y.; Ziesche, R.; Hack, J.; Neville, T.; Whiteley, M.; Kardjilov, N.; Markötter, H.; Manke, I.; Shearing, P.R.; Brett, D.JL: Effect of cell compression on the water dynamics of a polymer electrolyte fuel cell using in-plane and through-plane in-operando neutron radiography. Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy & Radiative Transfer 439 (2019), p. 227074/1-11

Water dynamics in the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) and flow channels of polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) is governed by the complex interplay of many physical and operational factors. The chemical nature and structure of the gas diffusion layer (GDL) plays a large part in this and is affected by the extent to which is mechanically compressed. Here, X-ray computed tomography shows the effect of cell compression on the MEA, and how it differs under the land and channel regions. Multi-orientation neutron radiography reveals the effect of compression on the way in which water accumulates and is transported between land and channel and between cathode and anode. By performing neutron imaging in both the in-plane and through-plane directions, it is possible to determine what constitutes a given ‘thickness’ of water mapped across the extent of an MEA. Changing MEA compression from 25% to 35% has a significant effect on water distribution and dynamics in operational cells. The effect of compression on performance is most marked in the mass transport region, and there are consequences for liquid accumulation in channels and back-diffusion of water from the cathode to the anode.