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Fraunhofer ISE honored with f-cell Award 2020

By September 30, 2020 4   min read  (608 words)

September 30, 2020 |

fcell award Fraunhofer ISE

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE won this year’s f-cell award in the “Research & Development” category.

The award was given for the further development of flatbed screen printing as an industrially scalable manufacturing process for fuel cell electrodes. Baden-Württemberg’s Environment Minister Franz Untersteller presented the award at the f-cell conference on September 29 in Stuttgart.

Large-scale production research – from innovation to prototype to product – will be a driving force for the further industrialization of fuel cells. Increases in performance in the fuel cells themselves, but also the optimization of their manufacturability in terms of cost efficiency, speed and reliability will lead to improved and cheaper products.

f cell print gross

© Fraunhofer ISE
Schematic representation of the continuous ionomer gradient in the cathode catalyst layer on the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM). The ionomer content is adapted to the reactive zone (red color) and the limit resistances for different current densities.

As part of the “DEKADE” project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF, Fraunhofer ISE has further developed screen printing as a scalable manufacturing process for fuel cell production with high throughput and high quality. To this end, the “Production Technology – Structuring and Metallization” and “Fuel Cell Systems” departments worked together to bring together expertise from photovoltaics and hydrogen technology. You applied for the f-cell Award with the submission “Through-Plane Ionomer Gradients in Fuel Cell Catalyst Layers for Enhanced Power Density”.

Screen printing – a technology that has been used in the production of solar cells for decades – enables the industrial application of homogeneous layers as stacks and thus the implementation of innovative, structured MEA architectures. In this context, Fraunhofer ISE has developed continuous ionomer-graded catalyst layers that enable significantly improved power density when operating fuel cells. At low current densities, the electricity is generated near the membrane and is not yet limited by an insufficient supply of oxygen. Here the ionomer content can be increased for better proton conductivity in the catalyst layer (see figure on the left). At higher current densities, the reactive zone migrates deeper into the catalyst layer and the oxygen resistances become power-limiting. The researchers therefore incorporated less ionomer in these zones in order to minimize the oxygen diffusion resistance (right).

This approach led to optimized proton conductivity and oxygen supply. The fuel cell obtained in this way exceeded conventional reference cells such as those used in the automotive sector by around 10 percent. “This could be achieved without adding new or more material to the production process, ie the increase in performance can be achieved without increasing material costs,” explains Dr.-Ing. Matthias Klingele, Group Leader Cell Analysis and Materials at Fraunhofer ISE, who together with his colleague Dr. Roman Keding accepted the award.

To the f-cell Award
The Baden-Württemberg Ministry for the Environment, Climate Protection and Energy and the Stuttgart Region Economic Development Agency have been supporting the f-cell award since 2001 to honor outstanding developments in one of the most future-oriented fields of technology – hydrogen and fuel cells – and to promote further innovations.

The prize is awarded in the two categories “Research & Development” and “Products & Markets” with the focus on the criteria of degree of innovation, market potential and benefits for the environment and society.

Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE

Fraunhofer is the largest research organization for application-oriented research in Europe. Our research fields are based on people’s needs: health, safety, communication, mobility, energy and the environment. And that’s why the work of our researchers and developers has a great impact on people’s future lives. We are creative, we design technology, we design products, we improve processes, we open up new avenues. We invent the future.

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