Challenges and Possibilities of EIS on PEMEC

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Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) has been proven a very strong electrochemical characterization tool in electrochemical research in general and in the areas of fuel cell and battery research in particular. However, this is not the case for polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis cells (PEMEC), for which relatively few reports on the application of systematic EIS studies are available. Asking experienced researchers in the field about why, the answer has often been that these cells reveals too much electrical noise to obtain EIS with acceptable quality due to O2 and H2 bubble formation.

Our view of the ideal structure of a PEMEC is that there ought not to be any effect of gas bubbles on the EIS as the current paths should not be disturbed by bubbles. However, we also see noise in our spectra, but the level of noise varies very much from one cell type to another. We have studied noise on three types of PEMEC and two type of alkaline electrolysis cell (AEC) for comparison. A characteristic feature of the studied PEMEC is that there is no or very little noise seen in the EIS in the frequency range above ca. 500 Hz and again not much noise below 5 Hz.

Our hypothesis is that this phenomenon is related to bubbles that are adhering to active sites of the electrocatalyst. When the catalyst layer is subjected to alternating current (AC) during the EIS then, in the PEMEC case, the O2 pressure and volume of the bubbles growing on the catalyst layer will oscillate with the frequency of the AC. The volume change will naturally change with the frequency. The longer the wave period (the lower the frequency) is, the bigger is the change in the amount of O2 production during an AC period. In other words, a vibration of the O2 bubble size and internal pressure must be induced by the AC current. Thus, we imagine that at some low frequency, the bubbles adhering to the catalytic layer get more unstable and detach with an uneven rate from the catalyst surface. This causes the noise observed.

Presumably, the structure and the properties of the interface of the catalyst to the liquid aqueous phase as well as the operation parameter will affect the frequency range and the size of noise in the EIS.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProcedings of the 6th European PEFC and Electrolyser Forum 2017
Number of pages7
PublisherEuropean Fuel Cell Forum
Publication date2017
Article numberA1002
ISBN (Print)978-3-905592-22-1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event6th European PEFC and Electrolyser Forum 2017 - Lucerne, Switzerland
Duration: 4 Jul 20177 Jul 2017
Conference number: 6


Conference6th European PEFC and Electrolyser Forum 2017
Internet address


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