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Fuel Cell Technologies

Novel, Lower-Cost Coating for Fuel Cell Metal Bipolar Plates

Company Name: TreadStone Technologies, Inc.
Program Office: Fuel Cells
Location: Princeton, NJ
Award Amount: $100,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Fuel cell electrical vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce emissions while meeting current consumer expectations around refueling and long-distance driving. However, the cost of the fuel cells themselves remains a major barrier for moving these new vehicles to market.

TreadStone has developed a unique approach to reduce costs, particularly when it comes to replacing the expensive precious metals that used to coat proton exchange membranes in fuel cells. TreadStone uses a titanium oxide coating on stainless steel, a process rooted in much lower cost materials. The company’s metal bipolar plate manufacturing process and quality control systems can also provide applications in other fields, such as electrolyzers and batteries.

This project will allow TreadStone to collaborate with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory experts who can shed light on the titanium oxide coating, particularly with regard to metal corrosion protection and maintaining low electrical contact resistance. These steps are necessary for fostering acceptance of the technology in target markets like automobile manufacturing, where high volume production, quality reliability and long-term operation stability are critical.


Over the last nine years, TreadStone has developed close working relationships with automobile equipment manufacturers and has created leading, low-cost technology for the market. TreadStone is already working with Ford and other manufacturers to evaluate and validate the commercial viability of its technology. Further, TreadStone estimates that its bipolar plate coating could be 30 percent cheaper than current options, reducing the cost of fuel cell stacks, for which coatings typically comprise 15 to 21 percent of overall costs. Additionally, TreadStone has diversified the use of the technology into several new markets, including electrolyzers and flow batteries, which reduces the cost of these technologies.



Scaling up production of fuel cell vehicles could create new opportunities in manufacturing and open up a class of vehicles to a new set of consumers. Fuel cell vehicles would also reduce projected national demand for gasoline.


Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can operate on an entirely emission-free basis along their fuel cycle, provided hydrogen fuel is synthesized sustainably. At the tailpipe level, these vehicles do not emit any pollutants. Fuel cell vehicles could therefore significantly reduce pollution around roadways while also lowering greenhouse gas emissions.


Fuel cells have applications across industries, including defense, utility-scale energy storage and the automotive industry. Further, vehicles that reduce gasoline use also decrease U.S. oil dependence.

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