Skip to main content

MRI for Understanding Water Management in PEM Fuel Cells

EMSL Project ID


Real-time, 3-dimensional analysis methods are currently needed to probe polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell performance and degradation. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has tremendous potential to serve as a visualization tool for this purpose but its utility for fuel cell research has yet to fully realized. The goal of proposed work is to develop MRI methods for in-situ diagnosis of fuel cell performance. Specific aims are to: 1) Visualize water distribution in the polymer electrolyte membranes as well as catalyst and gas diffusion layers, 2) Directly correlate electrochemical performance to water management and distribution, 3) Exploit MR thermometry for mapping heat sources and sinks so results can be correlated with electrochemical activity, and finally, 4) Map the flow of gas-phase fuel and oxidant in cell and stack manifolds. With world-class facilities and personnel in both MRI and fuel cell technology, PNNL expects proposed research to yield a clearer understanding of how PEM fuel cells function; thereby, gaining new insight into how to extend cell lifetimes, increase power density, and ultimately reduce lifecycle costs per kW.

Project Details

Project type
Capability Research
Start Date
End Date


Principal Investigator

Li-Qiong Wang
Brown University

Team Members

Paul Majors
Washington State University

Kevin Minard
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Peter Rieke
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Vilayanur Viswanathan
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Related Publications

Minard KR, VV Vishwanathan, PD Majors, LQ Wang, and PC Rieke. 2006. "In-Situ, Near Real Time, Magnetic Resonance Imaging of PEM MEA Dehydration and Gas Manifold Flooding." Journal of Power Sources 161(2): 856-863.
Minard KR, VV Vishwanathan, PD Majors, LQ Wang, and PC Rieke. 2006. "Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of PEM Dehydration and Gas Manifold Flooding During Continuous Fuel Cell Operation." Journal of Power Sources 161(2):856-863.