The Gas diffusion electrode setup as a testing platform for evaluating fuel cell catalysts: a comparative RDE-GDE study

23 September 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Gas diffusion electrode (GDE) setups have been recently introduced as a new experimental approach to test the performance of fuel cell catalysts. As compared to the state-of-the-art in fundamental research, i.e., rotating disk electrode (RDE) measurements, GDE measurements offer several advantages. Most importantly mass transport limitations, inherent to RDE measurements are avoided. In a GDE setup the reactant, e.g., oxygen gas, is not dissolved into a liquid electrolyte but distributed through a gas diffusion layer (GDL), as it is actually the case in fuel cells. Consequently, much higher current densities can be achieved, and the catalysts can be studied in a wider and more relevant potential range. Furthermore, direct contact to a liquid electrolyte can be avoided and elevated temperatures can be employed in a straight-forward manner. However, the use of GDE setups also comes with some challenges. The determined performance is not strictly related to the catalyst itself (intrinsic activity), but also to the quality of the catalyst film preparation. Therefore, it might be even more important than in RDE testing to develop standardized procedures to prepare catalysts inks and films that can be reproduced effortlessly in research laboratories for fundamental and applied experimentation. To develop such standardized testing protocols, we present a comparative RDE – GDE study, where we investigate several commercial standard Pt/C fuel cell catalysts with respect to the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). The study highlights the strengths of the GDE approach as an intermediate “testing step” between RDE and membrane electrode assembly (MEA) tests when developing new fuel catalysts.


Gas diffusion electrode (GDE) setups
rotating disk electrode (RDE) measurements
oxygen reduction reaction (ORR)
fuel cell catalysts


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