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August 20, 2020

Mahle develops fuel cell air filter solutions

Mahle has developed two standardised air filter solutions for fuel cells.

By Rhodri Morgan

Mahle has developed two standardised air filter solutions for fuel cells.

The supplier says it is able to significantly reduce development times and costs, with developers now having direct access to an ‘off-the-shelf’ component, instead of having to design individual solutions for each vehicle.

The new Mahle air filters for cells with an output of 25–50 kW or 80–120 kW protect fuel cells from harmful gases and particles, ensuring the operation of the fuel cell during the entire service life of a vehicle and minimising the use of catalysts.

With the new approach, Mahle maintains it is bringing the suitability of fuel cell technology for the mass market “a significant step” closer. Hydrogen and therefore fuel cells themselves are important elements of Mahle’s development work toward CO2-neutral mobility.

  • New standardised air filters reduce development times and costs of fuel cell applications
  • Fuel cells protected against harmful gases and particles, resulting in minimal use of expensive catalysts
  • New approach brings suitability of fuel cell technology for the mass market a significant step closer
  • Hydrogen and fuel cells are important elements of Mahle’s development work toward CO2-neutral mobility

“Mahle has extensive expertise in air filtration, which we’re now benefiting from in the development and production of reliable filter solutions for fuel cell vehicles,” said head of Corporate Research and Advanced Engineering at Mahle, Martin Berger.

“By making the design of the air tract simpler, faster, and cheaper with our new standardised approach, we’re bringing the suitability of this future technology for the mass market a significant step closer.”

Fuel cells contain platinum as a catalyst. It is used to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, with the energy generated in the reaction being released in the form of electrical energy. The fewer harmful gases entering the cell, the less platinum is needed to ensure it remains operational during the service life of the vehicle.

Platinum is rare and expensive, so using efficient filters to increase the degree of purity of the supply air means lower manufacturing costs.

In order to reliably protect fuel cells and thus make them attractive to the consumer from a price perspective, Mahle relies on a filter medium consisting of several layers: a substrate material ensures mechanical stability, while a particulate filter layer blocks 99.9% of unwanted particles.

A molecular layer prevents ammonia from entering the fuel cell, an activated carbon layer absorbs unwanted hydrocarbons and an additional, specially impregnated activated carbon layer stops sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen oxides from reaching the cell.

Mahle uses its holistic systems competence in thermal and air management, power electronics and filtration to support the development of vehicles with fuel cell drives that are suitable for large-scale production.

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