Water management is an important factor for optimizing polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC) under high current density conditions as required for the automotive application. The characteristics of the local liquid saturation of the gas diffusion layer (GDL) is of particular interest. Here we report on the development of in-situ X-ray tomographic microscopy (XTM) with a pixel sizes in the order of 2 µm and sensitivity for carbon and liquid water for the quantitative analysis of liquid water in GDLs. In-situ XTM of PEFC is a major experimental challenge. A complete cell needs to be operated under realistic conditions in the constraint space of the small field of view on the beamline sample stage. Further phase segmentation of the images is required to successfully analyze the quantitative properties of the different phases. For this a workflow, applying differential images between dry and wet structures has been developed. Cells with Toray TGP-H-060 GDLs were analyzed in-situ. Droplets that appear on the GDL surface are connected to a significant water structure inside the GDL. Further the water cluster size distribution in the GDL shows that while small droplets (<100 pl) are numerous, most of the water is contained in few larger clusters.
©2011 The Electrochemical Society