Fraunhofer works on a fuel cell virtual technology suite

In Germany, Fraunhofer Institutes IWU and IPT have begun to develop a “virtual technology suite” for fuel cells. The purpose is to provide users and interested parties with an overview of existing systems and technologies, and enable them to determine the appropriate production process according to their needs.
The Fraunhofer Institute stated in a statement that there has been a lack of clear structures and standards in the production of fuel cells so far. Because there are multiple production technology options, it is not easy for users and related parties to maintain an overview and determine the appropriate production process according to their needs. To solve this problem, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tool and Forming Technology IWU and Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT are developing a virtual technology toolbox. According to the press release, this should help “make the best production decisions in fuel cell manufacturing.”
The kit focuses on bipolar plates because there is a lot of potential for cost reduction-this can make fuel cells or their production cheaper. The bipolar plate is the core component of the fuel cell; it mainly regulates the inflow of hydrogen and air and the outflow of water vapor and energy. The efficiency with which this occurs depends on the channel structure of the bipolar plate. The larger the surface area and the flatter the plate, the better the interaction of the bipolar plate with other components of the fuel cell and the higher the efficiency.
In order to optimize the forming process in the production of bipolar plates, Chemnitz’s IWU and Aachen’s IPT are combining their existing expertise. “The companies that contact us usually want to invest in the production of fuel cells. They have some basic ideas about what the molding process will involve, but are not sure what the economic consequences of using the process are,” said Ulrike Beyer, Hydrogen@IWU TaskForce principal . “For example, productivity and manufacturing costs are particularly difficult to assess.”
According to the customer’s concerns-such as equipment and mold costs, output, size, flatness and flow field design-different molding processes may be the most appropriate. “For example, although hollow stamping and hydroforming ensure the high quality of bipolar plates, so far, only rolling can significantly increase production. But the latter still has weaknesses in other areas,” Bayer said.
According to Fraunhofer IPT Managing Director Christoph Baum, starting materials are also important. The composite materials mainly used so far are too expensive for mass production. “In addition, for composite materials, even after processing, the material thickness is still quite high. This means that any fuel cell stack will quickly become very large, which makes their use in vehicles impractical,” Baum said . “This has led us to use more and more materials such as steel, which usually results in better and more cost-effective results.”
According to a statement from the Institute, targeted consultations have become possible. The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA is currently still establishing a website for the technology suite, which should be available “soon”.
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Post time: Jun-04-2021
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