In this study, we introduce a through-plane electrochemical measurement cell for proton conducting polymer membranes (PEM) with the ability to vary temperature and humidity. Model Nafion and 3M membranes, as well as anisotropic composite membranes, were used to compare through plane and in plane conductivity. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) was applied to evaluate the proton conductivity of bare proton exchange membranes. In the Nyquist plots, all membranes showed a straight line with an angle of 60-70 degrees to the Z'-axis. Equivalent circuit modeling and linear extrapolation of the impedance data were compared to extract the membrane resistance. System and cell parameters such as high frequency inductance, contact resistance and pressure, interfacial capacitance were observed and instrumentally minimized. Material-related effects, such as swelling of the membranes and indentation of the platinum mesh electrodes were examined thoroughly to receive a reliable through-plane conductivity. The received data for model Nafion and 3M membranes were in accordance with literature values for in-plane and through-plane conductivity of membrane electrode assemblies. Anisotropic composite membranes underlined the importance of a sophisticated measurement technique that is able to separate the in-plane and through-plane effects in polymer electrolytes.
Keywords: anisotropic composite membrane; humidity-dependent; polymer electrolyte membrane; through-plane conductivity.