Kopfgrafik Nano

Center for Fuel Cell Technology

Today, fuel cells can already be operated with hydrogen from natural gas or liquid petrol gas. Applications such as domestic heat and power supply using fuel cells in cogeneration or remote power generation from liquid petrol gas are interesting options currently being developed and field tested. The role of the ZBT in this process is to partner industry in research and development. Compact hydrogen generators in the power range of 1 - 20 kW hydrogen output (thermal energy content) have been developed and provided to industrial project partners for field trials. Complete electricity generators using LPG as the energy source are also under development on contract to industry.
For the membrane fuel cell, ZBT has succeeded in conjunction with industrial partners in demonstrating the entire production chain, from the components to automatic assembly of fuel cell stacks. It begins with the mass production process of injection moulding, includes the manufacture of bipolar plates and fully automatic application of gaskets, and culminates in assembly of cell stacks in a pilot line.
The ZBT's work in hydrogen technology concerns designing hydride storage vessels, testing storage materials and investigating new and efficient means of water electrolysis. It is also working on the manufacturing technology for Lithium-ion batteries with innovative materials as part of a joint research project with the University of Münster as the leader of the consortium. This brings together the technologies involved in the storage of electrical energy, a topic that is becoming increasingly important as the proportion of fluctuating renewable energy in the power supply grows.
With electronic devices and decentralised intelligence moving in ever smaller dimensions, the miniaturisation of energy supply systems is likewise gaining in importance. The new film-type lithium polymer batteries are suitable for many applications, but fuel cells are a good option where a longer continuous energy supply is required. An ideal example is a micro fuel cell which is integrated into a silicon chip and supplies power directly to the integrated circuit. The application of technology from the semiconductor industry is opening up various new manufacturing options in this context.
An accredited laboratory has recently been established within the ZBT offering certified testing procedures for fuel cell stacks. This step is the logical conclusion of the development of manufacturing technology with integrated quality control procedures, whose success can be verified directly by the testing laboratory. This expertise is designed to assist companies in bringing certified fuel cell products to market.
One particularly forward-looking aspect of the ZBT's work is its collaboration with scientists from the field of nanotechnology. Various projects with industrial partners and other researchers are investigating the special properties of nanostructured materials. Examples include carbon nanofibres and tubes in compounds for bipolar plates and the stabilisation of platinum nanoparticle catalysts, whose agglomeration is one of the main causes of fuel cell degradation.
The wealth of expertise at the ZBT has helped it to achieve international recognition as a research institute and make a significant contribution to progress in fuel cell and hydrogen technology. Presentations at international conferences and reliable project research, modern facilities and committed staff are key to its success so far. The industrial association supporting the ZBT is currently headed by Ulrich Platthaus of 3M and plays a significant role in its success.