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Plastics Advance Fuel Cell Technology Solutions

SpecialChem / Feb 15, 2010

Fuel cells, despite being in the nascent stage of development, are viewed as a potentially vast market for plastics with reinforced thermosets and thermoplastics the most likely materials of choice for the manufacture of bi-polar plates, end plates, fuel tanks and other components required in fuel cell systems. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts hydrogen fuel into electricity without using combustion. Portable electronics is the most rapidly growing sector for fuel cell technology which promises to better meet the ever increasing energy demands of these devices and extend their operational time. However, fuel cell technology’s offer of ‘clean’ (near-zero volatile organic compounds - VOCs) conversion of hydrogen (H2) to electrical power for automotive and stationary power systems promises the greatest potential for plastics applications. The polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell (otherwise referred to as the proton exchange membrane fuel cell), is a type of fuel cell being developed for transportation as well as for stationary and portable fuel cell applications. An assembly of the proton conducting polymer 'electrolyte' membrane or PEM and catalyst/flat plate electrodes (anode and cathode) are typically treated as a single layer referred to as the membrane electrode assembly or MEA. BASF, last May, opened a fuel cell facility that fabricates ready-for-use high temperature MEA units marketed under the tradename Celtec. A chief hurtle to be cleared amongst many that face the mass marketing of fuel cell vehicles is the efficient storage of hydrogen. The predominant technology for H2 fuel tanks is a filament wound carbon fiber/epoxy pressure vessel rated up to 700 bars.

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