This study elucidates the effects of current density on membrane degradation under combined mechanical and chemical stress tests. Relative humidity (RH) cycling tests using hydrogen gas and air are conducted on a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell based membrane NRE211 at the open circuit voltage (OCV), 0.05 and 0.3 Acm−2 conditions. The different current density conditions result in different in-plane membrane stresses and H2O2 formation rates during the test. After every 200 RH cycles, membrane integrity is assessed via the hydrogen crossover rate and OCV. Furthermore, catalytic combustion is analyzed during OCV measurement using a thermal imaging method employing high-transmittance glass at the cathode side. The membrane failed after 1600, 1800, and 2200 RH cycles under the OCV condition, 0.05 of 0.3 Acm−2, respectively. The vigorous membrane degradation under OCV conditions can be attributed to higher mechanical stress and H2O2 formation rate. Hotspots created owing to the combustion between the crossover hydrogen and air were successfully captured, with a maximum temperature rise ranging from 15 to 16 °C compared with a given cell temperature of 80 °C. Moreover, a post-mortem analysis (SEM imaging) revealed the presence of pinholes, through-membrane cracks, and membrane thinning at the hotspot locations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Energy Engineering and Power Technology
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering