Super Sensitive Sensor For The Detection Of Hydroxyl Free Radicals in PEM Fuel Cells


Project ID: D2020-04


Owing to increased threat to the environment, the market for eco-friendly hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is expected to hit $42 billion by 2026. However, concerns over the degradation of the current fuel cell technology is one of the biggest shortcomings. The durability issue persists in the ion exchange membrane that affects the overall performance of the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The chemical degradation of the fuel cell operation is primarily due to the reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals of which the hydroxyl radicals are the major oxidizing agents. While the eco-friendly cars are starting to get huge traction in the global market, the problem caused by free radicals can become costly in the long term, and difficult to diagnose. Early detection of the ROS in the PEM fuel cells is extremely cumbersome using the current state of art. Hence, the market demands a portable sensor that is cost effective and provides quick real time results.

Invention Description:

Researchers at the University of Toledo have developed a highly sensitive sensor for the detection of hydroxyl free radicals based on the strong affinity of cerium oxide towards ROS. The invention incorporates a novel composition comprising of cerium oxide nanoparticles on a carbon-based substrate containing amorphous carbon that improves performance and sensitivity of the sensor. The probe in the sensor is designed to allow the sensor tip to contact the area to be measured without disturbances from surrounding non-specific solid materials. The sensor directly interacts with the area where the source of free radical generation is present.


Detection of free radicals in PEM fuel cells


  • Hand-held and real-time detection.
  • Early detection of ROS tackles the high degradation rate of fuel cells.
  • Detection at a lower concentration than 0.1 mM.
  • Improved conductivity of a novel cerium oxide composite over current state of art with consistent and accurate detection.
  • The novel composition is better than known compositions in detecting and scavenging of hydroxyl free radicals.

IP status: Patent Pending

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Stephen Snider
AVP Tech Transfer
The University of Toledo
419 530 6225
Ana Alba Rubio
Dong Shik Kim
Surachet Duanghathaipornsuk
Free Radical Sensor
Fuel cell
Hydrogen cars
Hydroxy ROS