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The components used to make tomorrow's fuel cells will be…printed! PEMFCs (proton exchange membrane fuel cells) convert the hydrogen and oxygen in the air into electricity and heat. Channels in the cells' bipolar plates carry the gases to the area where the reaction takes place. Conventional stamped-metal bipolar plates are close to their limits in terms of pattern sizes. Researchers at CEA-Liten looked to more flexible printing techniques to find a solution.
The researchers leveraged prior advances made at Liten to complete the first-ever stack made from printed components. The 1 kW stack is an assembly of around 20 cells whose patterns were screen printed using a carbon-based ink. The stack offers power densities similar to those of metal bipolar plates. However, the Liten-patented printing techniques open the door to very substantial improvements. By further reducing pattern sizes, power densities could climb to 6 kW/L.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.