Low temperature, hydrogen-fueled, proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEM-FC) based engines are being developed rapidly for near-term implementation in mass production, personal automobiles. Materials and process research aiming to further optimize these systems is focused on understanding and controlling various degradation processes (carbon corrosion, Pt migration, cold start), and reducing cost by reducing or eliminating Pt in the electro-catalyst, especially for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), and optimizing the nanoscale distribution of the cathode components. Soft X-ray scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM)  is a powerful tool to study PEM-FC catalyst layers (membrane electrode assemblies, MEA). STXM provides spectroscopic identification and quantitative mapping of chemical components with 30 nm spatial resolution in both 2D projection and 3D spectro-tomography. For a given radiation dose, it provides much more chemical information than analytical transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and thus it has significant advantages for mapping ionomer in MEA cathodes [2, 3], which has proven to be a very challenging component to detect by TEM due to the high sensitivity of ionomer to radiation damage. This tutorial will describe the instrumentation, methodology and data analysis involved in applying STXM to PEM-FC catalyst layers, and illustrate its capabilities with results from recent studies [4, 5].
STXM performed on BL 10ID1 at the Canadian Light Source and on BL 188.8.131.52 at the Advanced Light Source. Research supported by AFCC, NSERC, Canada Research Chairs, and the Catalyst Research for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells (CaRPE-FC) network.
 A.P. Hitchcock,
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