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Composites solutions for developing fuel cells

Hexcel will collaborate with leading research and technology partners to develop advanced composite solutions for more efficient hydrogen fuel cells technologies

Hexcel the leading composites company announced its role in the DOLPHIN project (Disruptive PEM Fuel Cell stack with nOvel materiaLs, Processes, arcHitecture, and optimized INterfaces). The company will collaborate with leading research and technology partners to develop advanced composite solutions for more efficient hydrogen fuel cells thereby accelerating the adoption of cleaner, more sustainable fuel cell technologies.

The project aims to deliver a significant improvement over current state-of-the-art technology, delivering a 5kW fuel cell stack demonstrator with increased power density in addition to a fully developed 100kW stack design. While current PEMFC stack technologies for automotive applications have proven their competitiveness in terms of performance and durability, reducing production costs is currently the main challenge for the mass production and commercialization of fuel cells. The DOLPHIN project aims to implement an innovative, disruptive approach to a new cell architecture with a repeating unit reduced to two integrated core components to show the further potential of a new generation of fuel cells.

To meet a challenging target – a 25% increase in volumetric power density – innovative approaches will be combined in the areas of cell and stack design, manufacturing technology, process integration, interface quality, material efficiency, and lightweight composite materials. The project is proceeding toward a Technical Readiness Level (TRL) of 3 – an experimental proof of concept in positioning the DOLPHIN stack technology.

Hexcel is providing lightweight PrimeTex® woven carbon fiber fabrics, HexMC® molding materials, HexPly® prepregs, and prepreg laminates that will be applied in three key areas (terminal plates, gas diffusion layers, and bi-polar plates) to reduce the weight and volume of the fuel cell stack.

PrimeTex® lightweight spread tow woven carbon fiber reinforcements will be used in dry form and as a single-ply (<100μm thickness) HexPly® M901 prepreg in the fuel cell’s gas diffusion layers and bi-polar plates, respectively. The patented fiber spreading technology of the low aerial weight PrimeTex® reinforcements improves uniformity and provides a gap-free structure, reducing porosity which is critical in bi-polar plate applications. 

Hexcel sites in Les Avenières (France), Duxford (U.K.) and Neumarkt (Austria) will support the DOLPHIN project. Hexcel will manufacture compression molded terminal plates, with HexPly® and HexMC® materials substituting metallic plates to reduce weight and facilitate additional integrated functionality. 

The DOLPHIN project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 826204. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research.

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