This contribution presents a novel online detector concept for analyzing gas compositions in flow fields of PEM fuel cells. This concept is based on arc emission spectroscopy. At the end of a flow field meander, the exhaust gas is directed to the electrodes of the discharge unit in which the molecules are electronically excited. After excitation, the gas molecules emit radiation that is analyzed by a spectrometer. Applied to the gas exhaust of the anode, the arc emission spectrometer detects hydrogen, water vapor and nitrogen. The detection limit of nitrogen is in the range of a few ppm. This property enables the detector to document the actual permeability of the membrane as well as to monitor pre-stages of membrane degradation.

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