Hydrogen fuel cells convert the energy in hydrogen fuel directly into electricity by combining it with oxygen to make water. Conversely, electrolysers use electricity to split water and generate the hydrogen fuel.
These devices play an important role in the implementation of a sustainable energy infrastructure. Fuel cells are used to power hydrogen cars and have the potential to disrupt a variety of industries, helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating problems of pollution such as poor air quality.
However, the performance of fuel cells and electrolysers can suffer if the reaction is not uniformly distributed across the cell. Non-uniform distributions make inefficient use of expensive catalysts and can lower performance. They also arise naturally during start-up and shut-down of the cell, leading to reactions that increase the risk of corrosion and harm the useful lifetime of the device.