Grupo Antolin, a global supplier of technological solutions for car interiors, is studying the potential of carbon nanofibres to improve the efficiency, durability, and cost reduction of critical components in next-generation hydrogen fuel cells. The aim is to contribute to the development of technology to make electric mobility more cost-effective, efficient, and accessible, thus helping to drive sustainable mobility.
Because of their potential sustainability, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are seen as a promising alternative, together with electric battery vehicles, to internal combustion engine vehicles. Hydrogen cars have no exhaust emissions, except for high purity water; refuelling is easy and fast and good range levels are achieved.
Grupo Antolin has successfully developed carbon nanofibres with excellent electrical conductivity performance, corrosion resistance and specific surface area: a material highly suitable for application in the electrodes of the electrochemical cells that constitute the hydrogen fuel cell systems.
The carbon nanofibres serve as physical support for platinum nanoparticles that act as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions and enable the amount of platinum needed to be reduced. They have also been found to improve the durability of the electrodes as well as the overall efficiency of the system.
Of the different types of hydrogen fuel cells available for automotive, applications, those based on Polymeric Electrolyte Protonic Exchange Membranes (PEMFC) have shown the most potential, due to their high power density and operating range. In this type of system, the electrodes and the polymeric membrane separating these within the cell together form the MEA, or Membrane Electrode Assembly. The MEA is the core component of the cell.
Grupo Antolin has focused on combining the potential of its carbon nanofibres 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," said Javier Villacampa, Innovation Director at Grupo Antolin.
The company is currently pursuing this line of research in collaboration with several national and European institutes and universities in order to modify the surface properties of nanofibres and optimise processing technology to generate MEA systems.