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This section of the report highlights the main production methods of the components of the cell
stack. It highlights the Vehicle integration issues as well as certain modifications that need to be
made. A section discusses the challenges Fuel Cell technology faces in terms of high output
production.

Fuel cell manufacturing is a labour-intensive process requiring manual alignment of the


membrane-electrode-assemblies. Most processes for the manufacture of vehicle fuel cells are
modifications and expansions of laboratory procedures which is why Fuel Cell vehicles are time
consuming, labour intensive and expensive to produce in high volume.

Manufacturing process:

The current design method for building a Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell power plant is based
around four main subsystemsi:
1. The Cell Stack
2. Balance of Plant - Reactantsflow and Products removal
3. Power Conditioning ʹ Regulation of the power flow produced by the Cell stack
4. System Control ʹ Operation of the interface that controls the PEM Fuel Cell

Manufacture of Cell Stack:

Membrane

Membrane Catalyst
Electrode
Assembly
Seals
Cell Stack

Bipolar Plates

Cell Stack
Assembly Reactant
Manifolds

Figure 1: Manufacturing process for PEM Cell Stack


        
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Electrol" te Me #brane:
The electrolyte membrane in itself is afully fluorinated Teflon-based material $Perfluorosulfonicacid [PFSA] %,
produced by DuPont for space applications in the 196s.DuPont markets the membrane under the name
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Nafion and the structure is Polytetraflouroethylene-based. Themembrane is relatively strong and stable in
both oxidative and reductive environmentsand its thickness ranges from 2 to  micrometres. Manufacture
of the membrane is a very lengthy and complex process involving many stages, hence, for a large scale PEM
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manufacturing process it would be more suitable to buy the membranes in a ͚turnkey state at our
specifications.

Electrodes:

Figure 4: Sho'ing the idealised structure of the Platinu( catal) st on Carbon support Y

Y
The Electrode catalyst layer mentioned above is composed of a carbon support upon which a
Platinum catalyst is coated. The platinum catalyst is supported on carbon *~ wt % + at a loading of equal to or
less then .4 mg Pt/cm2. The thickness of the catalyst layer can approach 2 micrometres but is usually
thinner. It is important to finely spread the catalyst as it is very expensive.

The Electrode layer is essentially coated onto the outside of the electrolyte membrane. It is basically a thin film
sandwich that could require thin film manufacturing processing; possibly roll-to-roll processing coupled with
deposition processes such as ink jet printing. It is important to use precision manufacturing methods in order
to finely distribute the catalyst.

The reactants need to be brought into contact with the catalyst, and a good electricalcontact needs to be
made with the electrode surface. Also, in the case of the cathode, the product water needs to be removed.
,
These tasks are performed by the ͚gas diffusion layer , a porous and highly conductive material such as carbon
felt or carbon paper, which is layered on the electrode surface.

 as -iffusion La. er:


The GDLs are considerably thicker porous carbon layers with thickness in the range 3 micrometres per layer.
Woven carbon/graphite cloths and carbon felts are promising technologies for manufacturing GDLs. The
carbon felts are manufactured using paper processing techniques. For the PEM, the GDL is chemically treated
to control its hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties. Thin film manufacturing processes such as vapour / physical
deposition could be used to apply the hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties.

Seals
Isolation of different parts of the fuel cell stack is imperative in order to avoid leakages and u nwanted mixing
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of fluids. In the average  kW transportation fuel cell stack there is approximately 1 mile of sealant . In order
to achieve the installation of sealant, thin film manufacturing processes methods such as screen printing, and
coating process such as spray coating or roll coating may offer feasible manufacturing processes.
¢ipolarplates are essentially used to press together all the layers of the MEA and are responsible for the
introduction of the feeds and the collection of exiting fluids. PEM manufacture enlists the use of Graphite and
Metal when producing bipolar plates. Manufacturing techniques such as Injection moulding of carbon- and
graphite-containing resins is an approach for high output manufacturing methods.
Reactant /anifolds will have to be made using precise manufacturing methods in order to maintain the
segregation of process fluids. In the case of metal bipolar plates manufacturing methods such as complex
metal stamping will be used to form precise flow fields. Graphite bipola r plates will be moulded or ͚hot-
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pressed in order to maintain their complex internal geometries.
Cell-stack asse /bl1 :
Manufacturing processes for the final assembly of the cell stack are to index the multiple MEAs, Bipolar plates
and cooler plates. Transportation applications require as many 4 individual cells composed of MEAs with
two bipolar plates each separated by a cooler plate.
Peculiarities Faced in Manufacturing processes:
Bipolar plates require a series of fundamental properties that must be ensured in order to achieve an efficient
operation. The integrity of the plates in term of flatness, parallelism of the faces, and uniformity of the flow
fields must be insured. Time consuming and labour intensive processes such as post machining or grinding
must be employed.
The Nafion membrane used is very expensive. It also plays an integral role in the PEM. The productions of
MEAs on large scale process are restricted by the price of Nafion.
Cell stack assembly is a time intensive procedure in which the alignment of the stacks and insertion of seals is
paramount. There is also great emphasis on the equal distribution of stress around the stack so as to ensure
optimum performance. A great degree of accuracy is demanded in that the alignment musts be maintained at
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+/-  micrometers .
Integrations of seals into the cell stack acts as a difficult method to develop simply due to the sheer amount of
application required. As it is an integral part, manufacturing metho ds must be developed that reduce the
labour and time requirement.

Vehicle integration:
System integration issues: This is the final step before the product is produced and enters the
market. It should be ensured that all vehicle components can work together and that when one unit
operates it does not influence the efficiency of another unit. There are several integration issues.
Firstly, the electrochemical reaction taking place in the PEC is highly exothermic which can cause
thermal loading 2overheating3 to the cell, which in turn can affect other units. Another important
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integration issue is the water production from the reaction occurring in the PEFC. Water s
production rate should be equal to its evaporation rate. If the rate of production of water is higher
than its rate of evaporation then this will cause flooding in the cell which will damage the electrodes.
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If water s evaporation rate is higher than its production rate then this will make the membrane to
dry and the resistance across the cell to increase resulting to a ͞short circuit͟. In the ͞short circuit͟
hydrogen and oxygen combine and heat is ͞generated͟ which can again damage the cell and the rest
of the vehicle components.

Modifications required: Cars operating on fuel cell technology will have to incorporate air intakes
into their design so as to aid in the cooling system of cell stack. The main concern is the storage of
Hydrogen onboard. Typically 4-7kg of Hydrogen is to be stored in order to achieve a range of 4 km
on a PEM of output 6 5W. In addition certain safety concerns will have to be adhered to since
Hydrogen is flammable and also pressurized within a confined space in the Vehicle.
Figure 5: Sho6ing an integrated Vehicle Fuel Cell arrange7 ent

Discussion: Challenges faced with mass production


Fuel cell stacks and their respective components are in the early stages of manufacturing. The
current methods of production of fuel cells are based on scaled up Laboratory processes thatdo not
incorporate high volume manufacturing methods.

Rare metal catalysts and expensive electrolytes membranes make a significant contribution to the
overall price of fuel cells. The price of Platinum will only increase as it becomes scarcer. In order to
try and alleviate the effect of this, more efficient measurement technologies which optimize catalyst
application within the fuel cell should be implemented.

Assembly of the fuel cell stack requires extensive control of the layout of the individual MEAs to
ensure direct alignment of theelectrodes in adjacent cells. In between each MEA are the Bipolar
plates which are carefully indexed according to their internal manifolds. An additional component
for the stack is the cooler plate, which like the bipolar plate must maintain flatness. Assembly
requires that manufacturers repeatedly measure stack components and close tolerances for seal
connections to assure quality and performance are maintained. Manufacturing ancillary equipment
such as compressors, flow controllers, and converters must also be addressed.

Major Ancillary components such as the air delivery system and the cooling system are each
individually assembled by joining components, e.g., connecting the heat exchangers to the coolant
system or integrating the humidification system with the air blower. Construction of the PEM is
usually done through the integration of subsystems; however each subsystem is assembled
separately by a labour-intensive process. The manufacturing capability is limited due to a lack of
standardisation in term s of welding where each joint must be welded each connection to the
subsystem made separately.

Designs for manufacture concepts are only beginning to be applied to concept vehicles. The design
for high output manufacture allows a path to reducing capital costs, eliminating ͞site specific͟
production and developing standardized technology. Concepts such as ͞just in time production and
lean manufacturing͟ need to be used to achieve the cost reductions.
c 
This section of the report highlights the main production methods of the components of the cell
stack. It highlights the Vehicle integration issues as well as certain modifications that need to be
made. A section discusses the challenges Fuel Cell technology faces in terms of high output
production.

Fuel cell manufacturing is a labour-intensive process requiring manual alignment of the


membrane-electrode-assemblies. Most processes for the manufacture of vehicle fuel cells are
modifications and expansions of laboratory procedures which is why Fuel Cell vehicles are time
consuming, labour intensive and expensive to produce in high volume.

i
Manufacturing R&D workshop, Manufacturing for the Hydrogen Economy, Washington, 2
ii
Kelly, Kenneth J., et. al, ͞Application of Advanced CAE Methods for Quality and Durability of Fuel Cell
Components͟ 2 Annual Program Review Meeting May 23-26, 2 in Arlington, Virginia
iii
E. Carlson, ͞Cost Analysis of Fuel Cell Stacks/Systems͟, TIAX, LLC, 23 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Merit Review
Meeting, Berkeley, CA, May 19-22
iv
Manufacturing R&D workshop, Manufacturing for the Hydrogen Economy, Washington, 2
v
The Hydrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Program Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan, published in
February 2, http://www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/mypp/