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The degradation of cell performance of polymer electrolyte fuel cells under monochromatic X-ray irradiation at 13.5 keV was studied in galvanostatic and potentiostatic operation modes in a through-plane imaging direction over a range of two orders of magnitude beam intensity at the TOMCAT beamline of the Swiss Light Source. The performance degradation was found to be a function of X-ray dose and independent of beam intensity, whereas the degradation rate correlates with beam intensity. The cell performance was more sensitive to X-ray irradiation at higher temperature and gas feed humidity. High-frequency resistance measurements and the analysis of product water allow conclusions to be drawn on the dominating degradation processes, namely change of hydrophobicity of the electrode and sulfate contamination of the electrocatalyst.

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