Grupo Antolin, a Spanish supplier of technology solutions for car interiors, says it is studying the potential for carbon nanofibers to improve the efficiency, durability and cost of critical components in next-generation hydrogen fuel cells.
The company notes that it has been working for years on the 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 this work, it claims to have produced nanofibers with excellent electrical conductivity performance, corrosion resistance and specific surface area. Thus, the material is ideal for application in electrodes of the electrochemical cells that constitute 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. The nanofibers allow for a reduction in 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 applications, those based on polymer electrolyte proton exchange membranes are currently seen as having the greatest potential because of their high power density and operating range. In this type of system, the element formed by the electrodes and the polymeric membrane that separates them in each cell is called MEA (membrane electrode assembly).
Grupo Antolin says it has been researching 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 10 times lower after the same operating cycles,” said Javier Villacampa, innovation director at Grupo Antolin.