Nikkei. Researchers at the University of Hyogo (Japan) have developed a way to fabricate separators for fuel cells at a fraction of the usual cost, with the potential to reduce the cost of the fuel cell unit by 83%.
These separators are now made from resin materials and cost upwards of 5,000 yen apiece for the 10cm-square shapes used in car fuel cells. Since the typical fuel cell stack designed for cars uses some 1,000 separators, this part alone accounts for some 90% of the nearly 6 million yen [US$56,000] cost of the fuel cell unit.
In the new fabrication process, the separator is made by placing a sheet of stainless steel in a vacuum chamber, adding acetylene and other gases and baking to yield a thin layer of carbon.
By contrast, separators made by the new process would cost less than ¥200 apiece in mass production, and would reduce the cost of the fuel cell unit to around ¥1 million (US$9,300) for a car.
The group plans to look for a private-sector partner to develop mass production technology for the process.