Fuel Cell Manufacturing
NREL's fuel cell manufacturing R&D focuses on improving high-volume manufacturing processes to enable higher production volumes, increased reliability, and lower costs. Even though raw materials constitute a significant portion of fuel cell system cost, the cost of manufacturing is also significant, especially for fuel cell applications requiring large quantities of systems (at very low cost), such as for transportation. Currently, most fuel cell systems and components are made by labor-intensive processes, driving up the manufacturing cost. High-throughput manufacturing methods are needed to meet the volume and cost targets for transportation applications. Fortunately, much can be learned about high-volume manufacturing from other industries such as microelectronics, paper, and polymer films.
In-Line Quality Control
With support and input from industry, DOE and NREL initiated the in-line quality control project. For continuous (high-volume) manufacturing processes to obtain high yields, especially when the product requires close tolerances for proper operation, it is often necessary to measure the quality of the product as it is being made. This information can then be used to control the process so that tolerances can be met. To make these measurements, sensors are needed that can measure critical properties of the fuel cell component materials.
NREL's R&D manufacturing project goals are to:
- Develop sensors (or "diagnostics") and evaluate them in a manufacturing-like environment
- Understand the effects (on performance and durability) of defects in fuel cell components so that proper tolerances can be set
- Develop predictive models to help industry design better manufacturing processes and methods.
The following documents provide more information about NREL's fuel cell manufacturing research.
Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assembly Manufacturing R&D. Michael Ulsh, Guido Bender, Niccolo Aieta, and Huyen Dinh. Excerpt from the Department of Energy's Annual Progress Report. (December 2012)
Applying Infrared Thermography as a Quality-Control Tool for the Rapid Detection of Proton-Electrolyte-Membrane-Fuel-Cell Catalyst-Layer-Thickness Variations. Niccolo Aieta, Prodip Das, Andrew Perdue, Guido Bender, Andrew Herring, Adam Weber, and Michael Ulsh. Journal of Power Sources, Volume 211. (August 2012)
2010 Manufacturing Readiness Assessment Update to the 2008 Report for Fuel Cell Stacks and Systems for the Backup Power and Material Handling Equipment Markets. Doug Wheeler and Michael Ulsh. (August 2012)
An Assessment of the Current Level of Automation in the Manufacture of Fuel Cell Systems for Combined Heat and Power Applications. Michael Ulsh, Douglas Wheeler, and Peter Protopappas. (August 2011)
Contact: Michael Ulsh 303-275-3842