Ulm: Research on manufacturer-independent fuel cells

Ulm: Research on manufacturer-independent fuel cells-fuel

Science and industry drive the industrial production of fuel cells for vehicles. As is apparent from a message, Baden-Wurttemberg (ZSW) in Ulm’s Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, the research factory for hydrogen and fuel cells (HyFab). In it, those skilled in the art develop the necessary conditions and processes for mass production, it means.

In cooperation with EKPO Fuel Cell Technologies (EKPPO), the ZSW is therefore currently realizing a fuel cell stack as a manufacturer-independent development platform. Size, design and power density will meet the fuel cell systems used today in the automotive sector. Its components should be available from mid-2022 for research projects and for companies.

“Fuel cells were in twenty years ago shortly before the market launch. However, they failed primarily at the availability of hydrogen. This is now changing with the European Green Deal and the German Hydrogen Strategy, “says Professor Dr. Markus HOlse, ZSW Executive Board and Head of Electrochemical Energy Technologies Division in Ulm. “Now the fuel cell must also be quickly industrialized so that it will be available in large numbers at low cost in the market.”

Exactly this is the goal of the new ZSW project as part of Hyfab. With the “generic fuel cell stack”, a kind of universal tool for the technological development. In addition, medium-sized companies can then also provide components or entire fuel cells for their own product development.

The developers of commercial fuel cell systems usually do not open their operating data or material compositions not open and provide no components. However, this makes it difficult for market entry for the mostly medium-sized suppliers, it says. With the ZSW project, this bottleneck will be fixed because operating data and components should be available for all interested parties.

According to ZSW, the stack concept is designed up to a maximum capacity of 150 kW. This requires 500 single cells with two metal bipolar plates. The latter could be made in high quantities at low cycle times. However, the thin wall thicknesses of only one tenth of a millimeter are challenging at a length of over 40 centimeters per plate.

The bipolar plates are crucial components of a fuel cell: on the two outsides, cathode and anode, ensure the uniform distribution of hydrogen and air oxygen. In parallel, the cooling water is passed over the inside of the plates. This is done via extremely filigree channel and ridge geometries as well as a distributor and sealing concept. These structures are simulated and optimized by numerical fluid mechanics (CFD).

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