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Impact Coatings delivering fuel cell PVD coatings to Michelin

Impact Coatings, which develops and sells technology for PVD-coatings of fuel cell plates and vehicle reflectors, recently received its first production order for Ceramic MaxPhase coatings from Michelin. PVD (physical vapor deposition) is a method of producing thin layers of metals and ceramics under vacuum for surface coatings that maximize performance and durability.

Evaporation in PVD can be forced by several methods. The method Impact Coatings most commonly uses is magnetron sputtering, where the coating material is “blasted” from the target by a plasma. All PVD processes are performed under vacuum.

With the highly flexible PVD method, thicknesses of the coatings can be varied from a few atomic layers up to approximately 10 µm.

Ceramic MaxPhase coating is used for bipolar plates in PEM fuel cells. With a combination of low contact resistance, high corrosion resistance, and low cost, it exceeds both performance and cost reduction targets set up by the US Department of Energy (DOE), the company says.

Impact

The process is a vacuum-based plasma treatment and involves vaporization of the source material, which condenses on the substrate and forms a coating. Ceramic MaxPhase consists only of safe and low-cost materials: transition metals, group-A elements, and nitrogen and/or carbon.

Michelin R&D teams have been working with hydrogen fuel cell technology for more than 15 years. As a shareholder since 2014, it works with Symbio FCell, developer of a hydrogen fuel cell range extender. (Earlier post.) This can be used to convert any electric vehicle into an electric/hydrogen hybrid, encouraging rapid adoption of this technology, without having to wait for new models to be brought out.

Michelin subsidiary IMECA is working with Symbio FCell on the industrialization of this technology. In 2016, Engie also invested in Symbio, bringing with it its expertise in the carbon-free production of hydrogen and in distribution infrastructures.

Michelin is a member of the Hydrogen Europe FCH JU (Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking), which groups at the European level industries, research and national associations; of the Association Française pour l’Hydrogène et les Piles à Combustible (AFHYPAC); of AVERE, an association which works on the deployment of electric mobility and of Tenerrdis, a competitiveness center for many stakeholders in the hydrogen energy sector.

The French tire and auto components manufacturer is in a build-up phase in its fuel cell manufacturing initiative. Michelin manufactures fuel cell systems for trucks, buses, and automobiles and has selected coatings from Impact Coatings for its production.

Impact Coatings has previously delivered coatings for Michelin’s fuel cell development. Demand and delivered volumes are now expected to increase gradually during 2018 and 2019 while production of fuel cells increases.

A first order for Ceramic MAXPHASE coatings has been received for SEK 200,000 (US$23,800). The coating service will take place at Impact Coatings’ facilities in Linköping, Sweden.

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