skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Final Report - High Performance, Durable, Low Cost Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Transportation Applications

Abstract

The primary project objective was development of improved polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) which address the key DOE barriers of performance, durability and cost. Additional project objectives were to address commercialization barriers specific to MEAs comprising 3M nanostructured thin film (NSTF) electrodes, including a larger-than-acceptable sensitivity to operating conditions, an unexplained loss of rated power capability with operating time, and slow break-in conditioning. Significant progress was made against each of these barriers, and most DOE 2020 targets were met or substantially approached.

Authors:
 [1]
  1. 3M Company, Maplewood, MN (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
3M Company, Maplewood, MN (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Fuel Cell Technologies Office (EE-3F)
OSTI Identifier:
1360747
Report Number(s):
DOE-3M-0005667-2
DOE Contract Number:
EE0005667
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
30 DIRECT ENERGY CONVERSION; 36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; 33 ADVANCED PROPULSION SYSTEMS; Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell; Membrane Electrode Assemblies; Nanostructured Thin Film Electrodes; Performance; Durability; Cost; Rated Power Capability; Break-in Conditioning

Citation Formats

Steinbach, Andrew. Final Report - High Performance, Durable, Low Cost Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Transportation Applications. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.2172/1360747.
Steinbach, Andrew. Final Report - High Performance, Durable, Low Cost Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Transportation Applications. United States. doi:10.2172/1360747.
Steinbach, Andrew. 2017. "Final Report - High Performance, Durable, Low Cost Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Transportation Applications". United States. doi:10.2172/1360747. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1360747.
@article{osti_1360747,
title = {Final Report - High Performance, Durable, Low Cost Membrane Electrode Assemblies for Transportation Applications},
author = {Steinbach, Andrew},
abstractNote = {The primary project objective was development of improved polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) which address the key DOE barriers of performance, durability and cost. Additional project objectives were to address commercialization barriers specific to MEAs comprising 3M nanostructured thin film (NSTF) electrodes, including a larger-than-acceptable sensitivity to operating conditions, an unexplained loss of rated power capability with operating time, and slow break-in conditioning. Significant progress was made against each of these barriers, and most DOE 2020 targets were met or substantially approached.},
doi = {10.2172/1360747},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2017,
month = 5
}

Technical Report:

Save / Share:
  • Over the past 20 years significant progress in membrane-electrode assembly (MEA) technology development for polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEMFCs) has resulted in the PEMFC technology approaching a commercial reality for transportation applications. However, there remain two primary technical challenges to be addressed in the MEA. First and foremost is meeting the automotive cost targets: Producing a fuel cell stack cost competitive with today’s internal combustion engine. In addition to the material cost, MEA (and other components) and stack assembly production methods must be amenable for use in low cost, high speed, automotive assembly line. One impediment to this latter goalmore » is that stack components must currently go through a long and tedious conditioning procedure before they produce optimal power. This so-called “break-in” can take many hours, and can involve quite complex voltage, temperature and/or pressure steps. These break-in procedures must be simplified and the time required reduced if fuel cells are to become a viable automotive engine. The second challenge is to achieve the durability targets in real-world automotive duty cycle operations. Significant improvements in cost, break-in time, and durability for the key component of fuel cell stacks, MEAs were achieved in this project. Advanced modeling was used to guide design of the new MEA to maximize performance and durability. A new, innovative process and manufacturing approach utilizing direct in-line coating using scalable, cost-competitive, continuous high volume 3-layer rolled-good manufacturing processes was developed and validated by single cell and short stack testing. In addition, the direct coating methods employed were shown to reduce the cost for sacrificial films. Furthermore, Gore has demonstrated a 10 µm reinforced membrane that is used in the new low-cost process and can meet automotive power density and durability targets. Across a wide range of operating conditions, the direct-coated MEA outperformed the commercial baseline MEA, and did so through a process that delivers MEAs at $92.35/m2 at a volume of 500,000 systems per year, according to Strategic Analysis (SA) estimates.« less
  • The development of low cost, durable membranes and membranes electrode assemblies (MEAs) remain a critical challenge for the successful introduction of fuel cells into mass markets. It was the goal of the team lead by Arkema, Inc. (formerly Atofina, Inc.) to address these shortages. Thus, this project addresses the following technical barriers from the Fuel Cells section of the Hydrogen Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies Program Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan: (A) Durability (B) Cost Arkema’s approach consisted in using blends of polyvinylidenefluoride (PVDF) and proprietary sulfonated polyelectrolytes. The strength and originality of Arkema’s approach lies in the decouplingmore » of ion conductivity from the other requirements. Kynar® (Arkema trade name for PVDF) provides an exceptional combination of properties that make it ideally suited for a membrane matrix. In a first phase, Arkema demonstrated the feasibility of the concept with the M31 membrane generation. After MEA optimization, it was shown that the beginning-of-life (BOL) performance of M31 MEAs was essentially on a par with that of PFSA MEAs at 60ºC under fully humidified conditions. On the other hand, long-term durability studies showed a high decay rate of 45µV/h over a 2100 hr. test. Arkema then designed several families of polyelectrolyte candidates, which, in principle, could not undergo the same failure mechanisms. A new membrane candidate was developed: M41. It offered the same generally good mechanical, ex-situ conductivity and gas barrier properties as M31. In addition, ex-situ accelerated testing suggested a several orders of magnitude improvement in chemical stability. M41 based MEAs showed comparable BOL performance with that of PFSA (80ºC, 100% RH). M41 MEAs were further shown to be able to withstand several hours temperature excursions at 120ºC without apparent damage. Accelerated studies were carried out using the DOE and/or US Fuel Cell Council protocols. M41 MEAs shown sizeable advantages over PFSA MEAs in the Open Circuit Voltage Hold test, Relative Humidity Cycling test and the Voltage Cycling test. The main known limitation of the M41 family is its ability to function well at low RH.« less
  • Fabrication of membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) depends on creating inks or pastes of catalyst and binder, and applying this suspension to either the membrane (catalyst coated membrane) or gas diffusion media (gas diffusion electrode) and respectively laminating either gas diffusion media or gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs) to the membrane. One barrier to cost effective fabrication for either of these approaches is the development of stable and consistent suspensions. This program investigated the fundamental forces that destabilize the suspensions and developed innovative approaches to create new, highly stable formulations. These more concentrated formulations needed fewer application passes, could be coated overmore » longer and wider substrates, and resulted in significantly lower coating defects. In March of 2012 BASF Fuel Cell released a new high temperature product based on these advances, whereby our customers received higher performing, more uniform MEAs resulting in higher stack build yields. Furthermore, these new materials resulted in an “instant” increase in capacity due to higher product yields and material throughput. Although not part of the original scope of this program, these new formulations have also led us to materials that demonstrate equivalent performance with 30% less precious metal in the anode. This program has achieved two key milestones in DOE’s Manufacturing R&D program: demonstration of processes for direct coating of electrodes and continuous in-line measurement for component fabrication.« less
  • The program began on August 1, 2003 and ended on July 31, 2007. The goal of the project was to optimize a high-temperature polybenzimidazole (PBI) membrane to meet the performance, durability, and cost targets required for stationary fuel cell applications. These targets were identified in the Fuel Cell section (3.4) of DOE’s Hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Infrastructure Technologies Program Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan. A membrane that operates at high temperatures is important to the fuel cell industry because it is insensitive to carbon monoxide (a poison to low-temperature fuel cells), and does not require complex water management strategies.more » Together, these two benefits greatly simplify the fuel cell system. As a result, the high-temperature fuel cell system realizes a cost benefit as the number of components is reduced by nearly 30%. There is also an inherent reliability benefit as components such as humidifiers and pumps for water management are unnecessary. Furthermore, combined heat and power (CHP) systems may be the best solution for a commercial, grid-connected, stationary product that must offer a cost benefit to the end user. For a low-temperature system, the quality of the heat supplied is insufficient to meet consumer needs and comfort requirements, so peak heaters or supplemental boilers are required. The higher operating temperature of PBI technology allows the fuel cell to meet the heat and comfort demand without the additional equipment. Plug Power, working with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Polymer Science Laboratory, made significant advances in optimizing the PBI membrane material for operation at temperatures greater than 160oC with a lifetime of 40,000 hours. Supporting hardware such as flow field plates and a novel sealing concept were explored to yield the lower-cost stack assembly and corresponding manufacturing process. Additional work was conducted on acid loss, flow field design and cathode electrode development. Membranes and MEAs were supplied by team member BASF Fuel Cell (formerly PEMEAS), a manufacturer of polymer and fiber. Additional subcontractors Entegris, the University of South Carolina (USC) Fuel Cell Center, and RPI’s Fuel Cell Center conducted activities with regard to stack sealing, acid modeling, and electrode development.« less
  • The quantitative goal of this project was to produce a high-performance anion exchange membrane water electrolyzer (AEM-WE) completely free of platinum group metals (PGMs), which could operate for at least 500 hours with less than 50 microV/hour degradation, at 500 mA/cm 2. To achieve this goal, work focused on the optimization of electrocatalyst conductivity, with dispersion and utilization in the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) improved through refinement of deposition techniques. Critical factors were also explored with significant work undertaken by Northeastern University to further understand catalyst-membrane-ionomer interfaces and how they differ from liquid electrolyte. Water management and optimal cell operationalmore » parameters were established through the design, fabrication, and test of a new test station at Proton specific for AEM evaluation. Additionally, AEM material stability and robustness at high potentials and gas evolution conditions were advanced at Penn State.« less