Liquid water formation and transport was investigated by direct experimental visualization in an operational transparent single-serpentine PEM fuel cell. We examined the effectiveness of various gas diffusion layer (GDL) materials in removing water away from the cathode and through the flow field over a range of operating conditions. Complete polarization curves as well as time evolution studies after step changes in current draw were obtained with simultaneous liquid water visualization within the transparent cell. At similar current density (i.e. water production rate), lower level of cathode flow field flooding indicated that liquid water had been trapped inside the GDL pores and catalyst layer, resulting in lower output voltage. No liquid water was observed in the anode flow field unless cathode GDLs had a microporous layer (MPL). MPL on the cathode side creates a pressure barrier for water produced at the catalyst layer. Water is pushed across the membrane to the anode side, resulting in anode flow field flooding close to the H2 exit.

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