Grupo Antolin is studying the potential of carbon nanofibres to improve efficiency, durability and cost reduction of critical components in next-generation hydrogen fuel cells.

The Spanish supplier has been working for some years on development of processes to produce carbon nanofibres with properties for different industrial applications in sectors such as aeronautics, textiles, chemical, electronics and automotive.

As a result, nanofibres have been generated with electrical conductivity performance, corrosion resistance and specific surface area.

In this application, carbon nanofibres serve as physical support for platinum nanoparticles that act as a catalyst for certain chemical reactions. For their properties, nanofibres reduce the amount of platinum needed and improve the durability of the electrodes as well as the overall efficiency of the system.

Antolin maintains among the different types of hydrogen fuel cells developed so far for automotive, those based on Polymeric Electrolyte Protonic Exchange Membranes (PEMFC) currently have the most potential because of their high-power density and operating range. In these systems, the set formed by the electrodes and the polymeric membrane that separates them in each cell is known as MEA (Membrane Electrode Assembly). MEA is the essential component of the system as the final performance of the fuel cell depends mainly on its design and architecture.

Antolin research in the field focuses on combining the potential of its carbon nanofibres with a deposition process, so it can be applied in the manufacture of MEA devices.

“So far, we have achieved very promising results in laboratory testing, generating MEA devices with yields, in terms of electrical power, comparable to those marketed,” said Antolin Innovation director, Javier Villacampa.

“And we have achieved this using half platinum and with degradation levels ten times lower after the same operating cycles.”

Currently, the company is enhancing research in collaboration with several national and European institutes and universities to modify the surface properties of nanofibres and optimise processing technology, to generate MEA systems.