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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Spatially resolved diagnostic methods for polymer electrolyte fuel cells: a review

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This review discusses the range of diagnostic techniques reported in the literature for spatially resolved studies of operating fuel cells. In situ diagnostic techniques continue to reveal more about the working of fuel cells and in so doing allow for improved cell hardware design, materials selection, and choice of operating conditions to realize advanced electrochemical performance and longevity. These techniques also allow us to scrutinize the validity of conventional bulk electrical measurements and develop detailed models of fuel cell operation. This article is categorized under: Fuel Cells and Hydrogen > Science and Materials
Diagram showing how variations in the contact resistance for different segments in a segmented fuel cell can produce variations in local currents. In this case, a higher contact resistance in the second land (b) leads to a lower current in segment (b) but higher currents in segments (a) and (c).
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Photograph of a graphite flow plate showing location of the humidity/temperature sensors relative to the gas channels. Reproduced from Ref 106. Copyright 2009, Elsevier.
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In‐plane radiograms illustrate a comparison of the water distribution for different inlet humidities for a cell at an overall current density of 1 A cm−2, operated on hydrogen and air at ambient pressure and a temperature of 70°C. The color shades represent the water content with low relative neutron transmission corresponding to high water content. The right‐hand side of the figure shows that where the water content is high at the cathode side, the cell voltage tends to be lower. Reproduced with permission from Ref 105. Copyright 2008, Elsevier.
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(a) Block diagram of system showing the connections of the LDA system, the potentiostat, mass flow, and temperature controllers. A photograph of the operating system showing the two laser beams is inset in the top right corner. (b) UY velocity profiles during LDA of an operating fuel cell. One grid unit = 4.8. The fuel cell was operated on hydrogen/humidified air at a current density of 0.1 A cm−2 and a cell temperature of 60°C. λanode = 18 and λcathode = 23. Reproduced with permission from Ref 91. Copyright 2007, Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
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Formation of the measurement volume and the orientation of the optics for a laser Doppler anemometry (LDV) measurement.
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1H NMR microscopy setup for PEMFC investigation and images reported by Feindel et al.: (a) PEMFC schematic, (b) 1H NMR microscopy image acquired from a 500‐µm slice containing the MEA, (c) a 750‐µm slice image containing a flow field filled with water, and (d) a photograph of the fuel cell cross section showing the O‐ring, Au ring, and the flow field. Reproduced with permission from Ref 78. Copyright 2007, Royal Society of Chemistry.
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PEFC with aluminum endplates and copper current collectors used to carry out the tests: (a) fuel cell assembly and (b) embedding of the distributed piezoresistive sensor array for the measurement of contact pressure distribution in the fuel cell. Reproduced from Ref 71. Copyright 2011, Elsevier.
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An array of thermocouples embedded on the anode flow field. The locations of the thermocouples were based on the cathode flow field (i.e., thermocouple no. 2 is near the inlet of the cathode flow field). Reproduced with permission from Ref 54. Copyright 2006, the Electrochemical Society.
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(a) Comparison between NPL reference electrode approach and conventional fuel cell reference electrode configurations. (b) Schematic diagram of single NPL reference electrode (inset: hole in graphite flow plate and sealing). Reproduced from Ref 52. Copyright 2012, Elsevier.
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Localized EIS response for a 110‐mm long, 10‐mm wide segmented fuel cell (10 segments) with a single cathode flow channel with 1 mm × 1 mm cross section. Diagram showing how localized EIS varies as a function of position under two different operating conditions. Air flow rate of 20 cm3 min−1, hydrogen flow rate of 20 cm3 min−1, no back pressure. Cell temperature 30°C. Both gases supplied at 95% RH.
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Diagram showing how contact resistance effects can be compensated by using a sense electrode, which measures the potential of the GDL separately from the current contact. Each segment requires its own electronics, and one example is shown. OP = Op‐Amp; IA = instrumentation Amplifier.
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Experimental voltage–current curves at different points along a 1 mm × 1 mm cross‐section single flow channel on the cathode side of a fuel cell, for an air flow rate of 20 cm3 min−1. The anode side was supplied with hydrogen at a flow rate of 25 cm3 min−1 with both gases humidified to 95% RH at the cell temperature of 30°C. The dashed curve shows the average current density (‐ – – – –).
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