Innovative cell and stack design for stationary industrial applications using novel laser processing techniques
Key Objectives of the project
Projected advances in alkaline-fuel-cell technology have the potential to overcome the challenges that have prevented alkaline fuel cells from successfully bridging the technology gap from academic research to widespread, financially-viable deployment until now. Alkaline fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity and are one of the most efficient energy conversion technologies available today. In contrast to most other fuel cell technologies, alkaline fuel cells do not require expensive precious metals to be used as a catalyst material and most components can be constructed from cheap plastics. The high efficiency and the low cost make the alkaline fuel cell a very attractive technology for stationary power generation. Application areas include the Chlorine industry, where hydrogen is a by-product, remote power applications such as telecommunication towers or distributed CHP generation.
The LASER-CELL’s consortium has contribution to achieving this outcome is focussed on 4 key objectives:
- Designing a novel AFC based on laser-processed substrates that provide optimised technical and commercial characteristics.
- Assessing and adapting state-of-the-art laser manufacturing techniques and incorporating their benefits (while taking account of their restrictions) in the fuel-cell design.
- Designing an innovative fuel-cell stack to operate in industrial stationary environments, which delivers safety, mass manufacturability, ease of assembly, recyclability, serviceability and optimal performance.
- Combining the above objectives in order to establish the cost-competitiveness of the AFC technology in comparison with all competing technologies – confirming for the first time the commercial viability of AFCs in large-scale stationary applications.
Key parameters that will dictate fuel cell and stack design are: safety, reduced part count, easy of assembly, durability, optimised performance, recyclability, ability to deliver a cost of under €1,000 per kW.
To realise this vision, proprietary cell and stack features that have never before been incorporated into an AFC system will be employed to deliver a flawlessly functioning stack.
In order to achieve these ambitious objectives, the consortium comprises world leading specialists in the fields of alkaline, polymer electrolyte and solid oxide fuel cells, advanced laser-processing technologies, conductive nano-composites, polymer production and large-scale, stationary power plants.
LASERCELL will evaluate processes for mass production of AFCs. Two laser processes and three classes of materials comprise the design space in which the substrate will be developed. These options will be exhaustively explored to determine the optimal design and manufacturing process for stationary applications. The different materials will be characterised and their impact on substrate and stack design will be evaluated. Chemical stability, electrical and mechanical properties and cost considerations of materials will be evaluated. The major mid-project milestone will be the selection of the optimal combination of substrate design, substrate material and production process.
Efforts will then switch to further optimising substrate features and work will start on designing a novel stack that incorporates the novel substrate. A number of experimental tasks will form the basis of the actual stack design. The substrate production process will also be refined to improve quality and accommodate the final design.
Expected socio and economic impact
LASER-CELL will enable alkaline fuel cells to compete with existing fuel cell and internal combustion technologies in the area of large stationary power generation. This zero-emission technology could reduce pollution and Europe’s reliance on fossil fuel imports. European leadership in AFC technology would create thousands of new jobs and it will significantly contribute to establishing Europe as a leading global innovator and adopter of environmentally-sustainable technologies.
The porous substrate or functional layer is common to most fuel cell types and a critical component in terms of performance, lifetime and cost of a fuel cell system. The production processes developed in project LASER-CELL will enable companies working in PEM and IT-SOFC to re-evaluate the fabrication and design of their core technologies.
The processes developed and optimized in LASER-CELL will also benefit other industries where laser drilling and laser sintering are already used today, such as Emitter Wrap Through (EWT) solar cells, aviation components and medical implants.