Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are presented as the great alternative, along with electric battery vehicles, to fossil combustion cars. A technology that is attracting more and more attention for its potential sustainability. It does not cause exhaust emissions, except for high purity water, allows refuelling as quickly as in the case of fossil fuels and achieves similar range levels.
As part of its innovation lines, Grupo Antolin has been working for years on development of processes to produce carbon nanofibers with optimized properties for different industrial applications in sectors such as aeronautics, textiles, chemical, electronics and automotive. As a result of these works, nanofibers have been generated with excellent electrical conductivity performance, corrosion resistance and specific surface area, so this material is ideal for application in electrodes of the electrochemical cells that constitute the hydrogen fuel cell systems.
In this application, carbon nanofibers serve as physical support for platinum nanoparticles that act as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions. For their properties, nanofibers allow to reduce the amount of platinum needed and significantly improve the durability of the electrodes as well as the overall efficiency of the system.
Among the different types of hydrogen fuel cells developed so far for automotive, those based on Polymeric Electrolyte Protonic Exchange Membranes (PEMFC) are currently the most potential because of their high-power density and operating range. In this type of systems, the set formed by the electrodes and the polymeric membrane that separates them in each cell is called MEA (Membrane Electrode Assembly). MEA is the essential component of the system as the final performance of the fuel cell depends mainly on its design and architecture.
Grupo Antolin researches in this field focuses on combining the potential of its carbon nanofibers with an appropriate deposition process so that it can be applied in the manufacture of MEA devices. “So far, we have achieved very promising results in laboratory testing, generating MEA devices with yields, in terms of electrical power, comparable to those marketed. And we have achieved this using half platinum and with degradation levels ten times lower after the same operating cycles,” says Javier Villacampa, Innovation Director at Grupo Antolin.
Currently, the company is enhancing this line of research in collaboration with several national and European institutes and universities in order to modify the surface properties of nanofibers and optimize processing technology to generate MEA systems.
These works are part of the Strategic Commitment of Grupo Antolin to contribute to the development of sustainable mobility through R&D in both, processes, and products. The company wants to be a benchmark in the automotive industry for its respect for the environment, as well as for its contribution to the transition to a low-carbon economy.