Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was employed for visualizing water inside a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell during 11.4 h of continuous operation with a constant load. Two-dimensional images acquired every 128 s revealed the formation of a dehydration front that propagated slowly over the surface of the fuel cell membrane-starting from gas inlets and progressing toward gas outlets. After traversing the entire PEM surface, channels in the gas manifold began to flood on the cathode side. To establish a qualitative understanding of these observations, acquired images were correlated to the current output and the operating characteristics of the fuel cell. Results demonstrate the power of MRI for visualizing changing water distributions during PEM fuel cell operation, and highlight its potential utility for studying the causes of cell failure and/or strategies of water management. © 2006 Elsevier B.V.
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