A German-US collaboration including OH-Energy Germany, GmbH; the University of Delaware; Fraunhofer ICT; and Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research released initial results demonstrating 616 mW/cm2 peak power density at 80 °C for a hydroxide (OH-) exchange membrane (HEM) fuel cell. (Earlier post.)
The results are an early indication the partnership is on track to reach its stated goal of delivering 600 mW/cm2 from a platinum-free fuel cell by 2015. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has a technical target for proton exchange membrane (PEM) MEAs (membrane electrode assembly) of 1,000 mW/cm2 by 2020.
To date the collaboration—the primary focus of which is to bring platinum-free fuel cells to the transportation and power generation markets—has been coordinated by OH Energy, Inc. and SET Technology. The partnership hopes to decrease the cost of fuel cells by up to 75%.
Our encouraging initial fuel cell results and our experience with non-platinum catalysts allow us to predict with good accuracy that our efforts will lead to a 600 mW/cm2 peak power density without the use of platinum.— Professor Yushan Yan of the University of Delaware
Professor Yan of UD studies thin ion-conducting polymer films called hydroxide exchange membranes (HEMs). In a hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cell, the membrane conducts hydroxide ions instead of hydrogen ions as in a PEM. Hydroxide exchange membranes fuel cells (HEMFCs) have the potential to solve the catalyst cost and durability problems of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) while achieving high power and energy density.
By switching fuel cell electrochemical reactions from an acidic medium to a basic one and utilizing a highly conductive hydroxide exchange membrane (HEM), high-performance hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells (HEMFCs) are innovative and radically different from the proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) that have been intensively researched and developed in the past two decades.
HEMFCs have ability to solve some of the most significant commercialization barriers of PEMFCs, including catalysts cost and durability, while at the same time achieving PEMFCs’ high power and energy density.
The most attractive feature of HEM fuel cells is that they are compatible with commonly available catalysts such as silver and nickel, so that mass production would not tax the world’s limited (and costly) reserves of precious metals such as platinum. Yan’s technology was recognized by the US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) as one of 37 funded projects in ARPA-E’s first open call for projects in 2009.
OH Energy Germany is a wholly owned subsidiary of OH Energy, Inc. (USA). OH Energy, Inc. designs, develops and manufactures platinum-free membranes and fuel cells based on technology invented in Dr. Yan’s labs located at the University of California Riverside and the University of Delaware.