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NCMS Announces Advances in Manufacturing of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Systems

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) recently announced that its collaborative R&D teams have made advances in the manufacturing of hydrogen fuel cells.

These teams are funded through an award from the Department of Energy, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Program. NCMS project teams bring together member companies to collaborate in the development of solutions for hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen storage manufacturing issues.

The team of UTC Power, a United Technologies company, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory successfully identified cost-effective manufacturing techniques for high-cost Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cell components. The two are currently concluding selection of final designs and materials with the subcontractors who will produce the components.

This effort targets the movement of fuel cell component production out of the laboratory and into a high-volume production environment. Using the newly produced parts, performance tests will be conducted this spring. UTC Power has provided PEM fuel cell power plants for fleet transportation applications in the United States and Europe.

The NCMS collaborative team of Millennium Cell, The Dow Chemical Company, Edison Welding Institute and NextEnergy successfully developed manufacturing techniques for fuel cartridge components.

Initial pilot runs were successfully completed in December 2006 and the manufactured fuel cartridges were shipped to Jadoo Power Systems, Inc. for evaluation. Additional production runs will be conducted this month at Millennium Cell in Eatontown, NJ and additional cartridges will undergo further independent testing by the NextEnergy Center in Detroit, MI. Process validation should be complete this Spring.

The cartridges will provide hydrogen fuel for Jadoo’s 2.2 kWh XRT Extended Runtime Accessories targeted for use with emergency responders, Homeland Security, and “off-grid” power support applications in Columbia, SC.

Another team, Protonex Technology Corporation and Parker Energy Systems, addressed cost-effective manufacturing methods for high-reliability components of PEM fuel cells for portable applications by applying design-for-manufacturability principles.

Protonex’ fifth generation fuel cell stack architecture was optimized, and manufacturability of multiple 300-watt stacks was demonstrated using a novel, single-step production process. A significant reduction in part count and cycle time was realized.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) is the largest cross-industry collaborative research and development consortium in North America, and is the only consortial effort in the US devoted exclusively to manufacturing technologies, processes and practices.



We will see fuel cells powering cars about the same time we see cold fusion powering cars.


The same thing was said of batteries not too long ago.


Millions of people are still waiting for an economical natural gas fuel cell CHP for our homes. The experts in the field are telling us that it is still 10 years away.

Home Fuel Cell(HFC): 1.5 kw is ample size for most average power & heat requirements
Vehicle Fuel Cell(VFC): at least 15 kw is needed

HFC: size & weight, not a problem
VFC: severe limitations on size and weight causes reduced fuel economy

HFC: burning off the carbon in Natural Gas or Methanol fuel (readily available & easy to store) with a reformer provides useful heat
VFC: either you use exceedingly difficult & expensive and inefficient hydrogen economy & hydrogen storage or if you use reformers the carbon energy is thrown away & fuel cell overall efficiency drops below that of an ICE - so who needs a fuel cell?

HFC: could last life of building, not likely to be scrapped, not likely to be smacked up
VFC: could be destroyed in modest accident, likely scrapped when vehicle is scrapped

HFC: temperature not at problem, used at normal building temperatures
VFC: temperature is a very serious problem, will not function at cold temperatures, would require a very energy absorbing heating system in the winter, in cold climates

HFC: can easily run on Natural Gas, which most homes & buildings have already
VFC: would require a massive, extraordinarily expensive hydrogen infrastructure development.


PEM stands for Proton Exchange Membrane, not Polymer.

Siemens recently delivered a solid-oxide fuel cell to DOE which could be made for $400/kW in volume (and no precious metals).  This looks like the future.


Do these operate at near 60% efficiency? In the winter you could use the extra heat for your home. Combined with a geothermal heat pump, home heating costs could be significantly reduced (with extra up-front costs of course)


It is hopeful that these type of fuel cells will eventually be made into home CHP furnace/generators. That could revolutionize the way we produce and distribute power. But a cost comparable to a home furnace, in the $2,000 to $3,000 range is needed and long life with minimal maintenance is also a requirement. The waste heat would be used for hot water and building heat as needed.


The good news is that fuel cells in the 2kw range are ALOT cheaper then car sized ones and they can be made to last a fair while too.


I'm a bit dubious that we will see long lasting, reliable, low maintenance home fuel cells that burn Natural Gas for anywhere near $400 per kw, for a good many years yet.

I recall this quote from ECD/Ovonics about the NiMH EV battery pack from Jan 4/1999: "ECD is firmly committed and is on track to meet the auto industry's battery cost goal of $150 per kilowatt hour established to assure the cost competitiveness of electric vehicles."

Now you can’t buy anything larger, in NiMH than a 14 AH size F (extended size D) cell, and that is $670 per kw-hr.


You better hope t works out or your precious rain forest will likely be a plantation in 20 years.

Cheryl Ho

There are developments in DME in China and Since DME has an advantage of decomposition at lower temperature than methane and LPG, R&D for hydrogen source for fuel cell has been carried out.

If you would like to know more on the latest DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information:

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