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Effect of catalyst layer defects on local membrane degradation in polymer electrolyte fuel cells

Tavassoli, A, Lim, C ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2916-8221, Kolodziej, J, Lauritzen, M, Knights, S, Wang, GG and Kjeang, E (2016) Effect of catalyst layer defects on local membrane degradation in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. Journal of Power Sources, 322. pp. 17-25. ISSN 0378-7753

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© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Aiming at durability issues of fuel cells, this research is dedicated to a novel experimental approach in the analysis of local membrane degradation phenomena in polymer electrolyte fuel cells, shedding light on the potential effects of manufacturing imperfections on this process. With a comprehensive review on historical failure analysis data from field operated fuel cells, local sources of iron oxide contaminants, catalyst layer cracks, and catalyst layer delamination are considered as potential candidates for initiating or accelerating the local membrane degradation phenomena. Customized membrane electrode assemblies with artificial defects are designed, fabricated, and subjected to membrane accelerated stress tests followed by extensive post-mortem analysis. The results reveal a significant accelerating effect of iron oxide contamination on the global chemical degradation of the membrane, but dismiss local traces of iron oxide as a potential stressor for local membrane degradation. Anode and cathode catalyst layer cracks are observed to have negligible impact on the membrane degradation phenomena. Notably however, distinct evidence is found that anode catalyst layer delamination can accelerate local membrane thinning, while cathode delamination has no apparent effect. Moreover, a substantial mitigating effect for platinum residuals on the site of delamination is observed.

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