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Fuel Cells

Optimization of Roll-to-roll Coating of Gas Diffusion Media

Company Name: American Fuel Cell
Program Office: Fuel Cells
Location: Rochester, NY
Email: Daniel O'Connell, CEO;
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Manufacturing processes are critical for improving fuel cell performance and reducing their cost. Although roll-to-roll manufacturing processes have been around for forty years, the associated processing technologies have not kept pace with the rapid evolution of some end-use devices, notably fuel cells. Dramatic improvements in quality, feature size, consistency, metrology, and process controls and modularity are still required in order to maintain cost competitiveness and minimize waste in today's applications.

To date, insufficient real-time characterization tools with equipment that can detect both micro- and macroscale features and defects have not been integrated into high-speed, high-volume process lines. Although research has been conducted in the past, these results have not yet been successfully translated and implemented to the product manufacturing of a low cost, high quality membrane electrode assembly. The purpose of this project is to optimize the fuel cell electrocatalyst ink formulation and coating processes using a direct slot-die coating deposition technique in place of conventional spraying methodologies. Working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory will allow American Fuel Cell to access specific and relevant formulation and electrode coating expertise, along with the development and testing equipment required to demonstrate a full roll-to-roll produced assembly based on two catalyst-coated gas diffusion electrodes and a stand-alone ionomer membrane, which will significantly improve the quality and cost of manufacturing an assembly for fuel cell applications.


Slot-die coating offers superior thickness control and accuracy in the machine and transverse directions, which translates into improved uniformity of electrocatalyst area loading and more uniform current density during operation. It also minimizes waste of valuable catalyst material and can be performed at higher line speeds. For these reasons, it is desired to develop and install the in-situ roll-to-roll quality controls needed for successful slot-die coating and to subsequently evaluate the performance efficacy of slot-die coated assemblies.


Development and production of high quality, high performance, economical fuel cells would provide an alternative to the use of power derived from fossil fuels. A new viable source of clean energy would result in positive impacts on the economy by increasing the number of energy alternatives and the overall supply of energy.

Development and production of high quality, high performance, economical fuel cells can result in expanded applications, which could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Widespread adoption of fuel cells would reduce the amount of oil the U.S imports by cutting domestic oil use in transportation applications.

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