Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEA)

The Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) is the core component of a fuel cell that helps produce the electrochemical reaction needed to separate electrons. On the anode side of the MEA, a fuel (hydrogen, methanol etc.) diffuses through the membrane and is met on the cathode end by an oxidant (oxygen or air) which bonds with the fuel and receives the electrons that were separated from the fuel. Catalysts on each side enable reactions and the membrane allows protons to pass through while keeping the gases separate. In this way cell potential is maintained and current is drawn from the cell producing electricity.

A typical MEA is composed of a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM), two catalyst layers, and two Gas Diffusion Layers (GDL). A MEA with this configuration is known as a 5-Layer MEA due to its composition. An alternative version of a membrane electrode assembly is the 3-Layer MEA which is composed of a polymer electrolyte membrane with catalyst layers applied to both sides, anode and cathode. An alternative name for this type of MEA is a Catalyst Coated Membrane (CCM). See the diagram below for an example of each type:

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