Fuel Cell Manufacturing
NREL's fuel cell manufacturing R&D focuses on improving quality-inspection practices for high-volume manufacturing processes to enable higher production volumes, increased reliability, and lower costs. Many fuel cell companies are transitioning from labor-intensive manufacturing processes to high-throughput manufacturing methods to meet volume and cost targets for transportation and other applications. Fortunately, much can be learned about high-volume manufacturing from other industries such as microelectronics and polymer films.
In-Line Quality Control
The U.S. Department of Energy and NREL initiated the in-line quality-control project with support and input from industry. 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 made. Resulting information can be used to better control the manufacturing process and ensure that tolerance requirements are met.
Such quality-inspection techniques must enable wide-area measurements of critical functional properties and identify defects in fuel cell component materials. In addition to being rapid, non-contact, and non-destructive, these techniques must work in the manufacturing environment.
NREL's fuel cell manufacturing R&D project aims to:
- Evaluate, develop, and validate in-line inspection techniques for manufacturing fuel cell components and other clean energy technology materials
- Understand the effects (on performance and lifetime) 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.
Detecting and Localizing Failure Points in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells using IR Thermography. Guido Bender, Wyatt Felt, and Michael Ulsh. Journal of Power Sources, Volume 253. (2014)
Defect Detection in Fuel Cell Gas Diffusion Electrodes Using Infrared Thermography. Daniel Bittinat, Guido Bender, Jason Porter, and Michael Ulsh. ECS Transactions, Volume 58, Issue 1. (2013)
Challenges to High-Volume Production of Fuel Cell Materials: Quality Control. Michael Ulsh, Bhushan Sopori, Niccolo Aieta, and Guido Bender. ECS Transactions, Volume 50, Issue 2. (2013)
Multi-Analytical Study of the PTFE Content Local Variation of the PEMFC Gas Diffusion Layer. Tatyana Reshetenko, Jean St-Pierre, Kateryna Artyushkova, Richard Rocheleau, Plamen Atanassov, Guido Bender, and Michael Ulsh. Journal of the Electrochemical Society, Volume 160, Issue 11. (2013)
Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assembly Manufacturing R&D. Michael Ulsh, Guido Bender, and Huyen Dinh. Annual Progress Report. (2013)
Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assembly Manufacturing R&D. Michael Ulsh. Annual Merit Review. (2013)
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. (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. (2011)
Contact: Michael Ulsh 303-275-3842