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3M and Plug Power announce strategic supply agreement for PEM fuel cell MEAs; material handling and EV markets

3M will supply Plug Power Inc. with membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) to be used in Plug Power designed proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stacks under a new strategic supply agreement.

Through this strategic supply agreement, fuel cell stacks will be manufactured in Plug Power’s Latham, NY and Spokane, WA facilities to support the $20-billion material handling market. Additionally, this new fuel cell stack technology will be utilized to expand Plug Power’s presence into hydrogen-enabled electric vehicle applications outside of the material handling market. Fuel cell systems using the 3M MEA’s and Plug Power stack design will begin shipments in the fourth quarter of 2015.

With this strategic relationship, both Plug Power and 3M will set the new benchmark for performance and reliability for hydrogen fuel cell products in the most demanding electric mobility application—material handling. The joint knowledge and development capability of both companies will facilitate additional cost and performance improvements for the future of the electric vehicle market.

—Andy Marsh, Plug Power CEO

3M offers a broad portfolio of solutions for fuel cell construction—for low- and high-temperature applications—including fluoropolymers, membrane materials and advanced ceramics. 3M has applied its expertise in electrochemistry, fluoropolymer membrane, and high throughput manufacturing for advanced fuel cell MEAs.

3M Dyneon Fluoropolymers feature excellent chemical and temperature resistance, weatherability, permeation control and low surface energy— making them highe suited for PEM applications. For example, gaskets made from 3M Dyneon Ultra Low Viscosity Fluoroelastomers cure at low temperatures for seal-in-place solutions. Barrier films can be made from thermoplastics such as 3M Dyneon THV, which imparts oxidative stability; 3M thermoplastics also function as binders for bipolar plate applications.

3M’s fully integrated membrane electrode assembly is based on its catalyst coated membrane (CCM). The CCMs feature integrated, thrifted subgasketed construction, and combine low precious metal loadings with strong performance and durability.

3M researchers have been working for several years on a DOE-funded project to develop a durable, low-cost, robust, high-performance membrane electrode assembly (MEA) for transportation applications that is able to meet or exceed US Department of Energy 2020 MEA targets.

Partners in the three-year, $4.6-million project include Johns Hopkins University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Michigan Technological University, Freudenberg FCCT, Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and GM.

The approach 3M took with this advanced MEA research project was to optimize the integration of advanced anode and cathode catalysts, based on 3M’s nanostructured thin film (NSTF) catalyst technology platform, with next generation PFSA PEMs (polymer electrolyte membranes based on perfluorosulfonic acid); gas diffusion media; cathode interfacial layers; and flow fields to improve overall MEA performance, durability, robustness, and cost.

(Although the performance to date of the work is promising, with targets for PGM content (0.118 mg/cm2) and Q/ΔT (1.45 kW/°C) achieved, performances are still 10%–15% below the 2020 DOE targets.)

Plug Power’s GenKey, provides an all-inclusive package for customers, incorporating GenFuel hydrogen and fueling infrastructure, GenCare aftermarket service and either GenDrive or ReliOn fuel cell systems.

GenDrive, a lead-acid battery replacement, is used in electric lift trucks in high-throughput material handling applications. With more than 9,000 GenDrive units deployed with material handling customers, GenDrive has been proven reliable with over 107 million hours of runtime.



Another good news for future improved mass produced FCs.




3M Dyneon Fluoropolymers could be more cost effective than the Dupont Nafion that has been used so far. When people talk about "economies of scale" they should know that this is not inevitable in all cases.

Polymers can come down in price, platinum probably will not, the price of some materials does not come down with quantity. We can use less platinum or find substitutes but using more does not bring the price down, rather it may go UP.

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