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Technical Fibre Products, Johnson Matthey unveil new fuel cell electrode technology

Technical Fibre Products Ltd and Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells in the UK have developed a new, commercially ready electrode substrate for use in fuel cells. The substrate addresses the market need for a lower-cost alternative to currently available gas diffusion layer (GDL) materials.

Fuel cell electrode project

UK-based Technical Fibre Products Ltd (TFP), in a collaborative project with Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells (JMFC), have developed a novel and commercially ready electrode substrate for use in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) and direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs).

The innovation is the output from the project ‘Fuel Cells Incorporating Nanomaterials in Electrode Substrates’ (FINESSE), co-funded by the Innovate UK innovation agency (formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board).

The project’s primary objective was to develop a novel membrane-electrode assembly (MEA) for stationary PEMFC and portable DMFC power applications, which delivers similar performance to the current state-of-the-art but at a reduced cost.

The project incorporated a number of development strands, with TFP leading on the gas diffusion layer (GDL) substrate design and manufacture, and JMFC leading on coating, MEA consolidation, and in-cell testing.

Nonwovens at Technical Fibre Products

TFP – part of James Cropper Plc, and based in England's Lake District – is a leading manufacturer of advanced nonwovens. The company has extensive experience in developing novel materials to meet specific performance requirements in industries including aerospace, defence, energy, and construction.

The company’s dedicated Technology team combines an in-depth understanding of the nonwoven forming process with the knowledge and experience to work with a range of fibres, particulates, and binders.

The application of this expertise has enabled the development of a GDL electrode material which offers comparable properties and performance to the current state-of-the-art, but without the associated high-temperature heat treatment techniques which increase cost.

MEAs at Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells

JMFC is a global business dedicated to the supply of high-quality fuel cell components. The Swindon-based company designs and manufactures MEAs and their sub-components for use in both automotive and stationary fuel cell applications, including catalysts for fuel cells and fuel processors (reformers).

As part of the FINESSE project, the partners have developed an optimal MEA design which both incorporates the new low-cost GDL substrate and simultaneously delivers additional cost savings.

Lower costs accelerate market penetration

This development of a lower-cost electrode substrate and consolidated MEA supports the market need for cost reduction in fuel cell systems as a whole. Ultimately, this will help make fuel cells a more economically viable ‘green’ energy source, and potentially help to accelerate their market penetration.

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Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Policy, investment and markets