Advanced Characterizations for Fuel Cells Using New Coating Technology
Fuel cells efficiently convert hydrogen into electricity and are a promising technology to dramatically grow the U.S. clean energy economy. The heart of a fuel cell is the catalyst-coated membrane - CCM. Finding new ways to mass produce these at low cost and high quality is one of the major technical challenges clean energy businesses are looking to surmount.
Ion Power has roll coating and manufacturing equipment in place to make CCMs for fuel cells. However, the company has limited access to advanced fuel cell analytical techniques for their finished products. Ion Power has worked to reduce their costs of manufacturing CCMs, but recent advancements have not been widely accepted due to the lack of understanding about their processing condition changes and consequent effects on performance and durability. This lack of characterization limits Ion Power's ability to make further improvements in their CCM manufacturing line and receive consumer feedback for new products, including a Kapton-framed assemblies manufactured without a substrate membrane.
Through the SBV Pilot, Ion Power will work with Los Alamos National Laboratory to achieve advanced characterizations – including elemental, spatial mapping and structural composition – plus testing results that will help increase company and consumer understanding of its products and potential applications.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
Ion Power has developed a new coating technology that according to their fuel cell tests shows a significant power density improvement over traditional coating methods. The coating technology also reduces manufacturing costs. There are other aspects of the new coating technology which the company believes can offer even better performance and lower production costs over time. Their latest advancements include a new pattern in the electrode of the finished CCM. Preliminary testing has indicated that this pattern improves the reactant mass transport in the electrode. However, much is unknown about the technical aspects of the observed improvement in mass transport and other potential impacts of the electrode patterning, such as impact on durability.
Fuel cell technologies can offer new manufacturing and service opportunities in the transportation sectors. Reducing the cost of fuel cells and scaling up production could create more domestic manufacturing jobs and help keep the United States competitive in global energy markets.
Using renewable energy to synthesize the hydrogen that goes into fuel cells can ensure that the technology reduces heat-trapping emissions.
Fuel cell vehicles can increase U.S. energy independence by displacing oil use, both in passenger vehicles as well as in fleet vehicles, such as mass transit buses and delivery trucks.
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