Real-time Method for Control and Diagnosis of PEM Fuel Cells

In many industries, proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) are currently emerging as a green source of high quality electrical power. In order to optimize the performance of such a cell, it is important to carry out accurate cell diagnosis in real-time.

One important aspect is the determination of the fuel cell water balance, i.e. the question: how much of the product water leaves the fuel cell at the anode side versus the cathode side. One frequently applied method to determine this water balance involves collecting and measuring the output water over time, which is inefficient and not very accurate due to partial evaporation.

The present patent family proposes a novel approach for accurate determination of the fuel cell water balance, enabling automatic fuel cell diagnosis and control. This method applies for open ended systems with no anode recirculation, and it works for both dry and humidified hydrogen. The solution has been tested in standard fuel cell stacks, as well as single cells with exceptional results. When the fuel cell is running, the water balance is measured real-time as an electrical signal, which can be fed into a computer. It works instantly, from even very low current densities and with very low gas streams, and enables the continuous determination of the fuel cell water balance with very high accuracy.  

It can be applied in any size fuel cell used in laboratories for fundamental research, as well as in any full scale fuel cell system, provided the anode side is operated in open-ended mode, which is considered the simplest and cheapest mode to operate the fuel cell.

This novel approach ensures a high level of safety in running the fuel cells, as it enables real-time diagnosis and control. It makes it possible to immediately discover hydrogen leaks, operate at optimum temperature and control the performance of the fuel cells. And, it can be considered a non-intrusive health indicator for the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, as it enables direct determination of fuel cell condition and life expectancy measurements without the need to disassemble the stack or open the cell.  


  • Transportation (e.g. cars, trains, boats, industrial machinery, aerial vehicles)
  • Reliable, fixed or portable, backup power sources (e.g. hospitals, airports, data centers)
  • Power source for buildings located in remote locations (e.g. military bases, islands, natural disaster areas)


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