Ballard Power Systems has received a purchase order from Nisshinbo Holdings Inc. for the next phase of Technology Solutions project work related to the development of a breakthrough catalyst technology intended to reduce manufacturing cost of certain proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The project has now been underway for approximately 2 years.
Nisshinbo is an energy company providing low-carbon, optimized products across a range of business lines, including chemicals, precision instruments, electronics, automotive brakes, textiles and paper. Nisshinbo has supplied Ballard with compression molded bipolar flow field plates for more than 10-years, for use in the manufacture of PEM fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) used in various market applications.
In a PEM fuel cell, the MEA is formed by placing a catalyst-coated membrane between two flow field plates. When hydrogen gas flows across one side of the MEA and oxygen moves across the other side an electrochemical reaction occurs, splitting hydrogen into protons and electrons. The electrons are captured as electricity. Combining fuel cells together to form multi-layer stacks increases the amount of electricity that can be produced.
The volume of platinum catalyst coating material used in a fuel cell has been successfully reduced over time, so that today it represents approximately 10%-to-15% of total fuel cell cost.
The next phase of project work to be conducted jointly by Ballard and Nisshinbo will focus on a new PEM fuel cell catalyst technology that, on implementation, is intended to further reduce the cost of Ballard’s air-cooled fuel cell stacks. These stacks are used in various market applications, such as Telecom Backup Power and Material Handling.
Internally, Nisshinbo has been working on different approaches to fuel cell catalysts for some time (earlier post), including a carbon alloy catalyst being developed in collaboration with Professor Jun-ichi Ozaki of Gunma University under a NEDO project.
Professor Ozaki and Yasuo Imashiro of Nisshinbo R&D recently published a paper (in Japanese) in TANSO, published by the Carbon Society of Japan, describing the carbon alloy cathode catalysts for polymer electrolyte fuel cells, which they said they have developed to the level of platinum catalysts.
Jun-ichi Ozaki, Yasuo Imashiro (2014) “Development of carbon alloy catalysts for a polymer electrolyte fuel cell,” TANSO Nº 265, 204-212 ￼
Takuya Maie, Saki Tsuboi, Jun-ichi Ozaki (2014) “Effects of graphite oxide additions on the oxygen reduction reaction activity of a carbon alloy catalyst for a polymer electrolyte fuel cell cathode” TANSO Nº 265, 159-164
Takashi Ikeda, Mauro Boero, Sheng-Feng Huang, Kiyoyuki Terakura, Masaharu Oshima, and Jun-ichi Ozaki (2008) “Carbon Alloy Catalysts: Active Sites for Oxygen Reduction Reaction” The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 112 (38), 14706-14709 doi: 10.1021/jp806084d