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The Membrane-Electrode Assembly (MEA) is at the core of the PEMFC. Improvements of MEA components and Bipolar Plates (BPPs) are required for further cost reduction and to increase performance and durability of next generation of PEMFC stacks. MEA components comprise membrane, ionomers, catalysts and their supports, conductive electrode agents, gas diffusion layers (GDLs) including microporous layers (MPLs). Development of lower cost and durable materials (substrate and coating) and including BPP stable coatings may contribute significantly to meet cost targets required for commercialization.

A wide range of MEA components have already demonstrated their maturity for automotive application and many of them are commercially available. Nevertheless, integrated in a stack, these components do not yet meet the performance and durability at low cost requirements for a broad market introduction despite very promising innovative results achieved during previous projects funded by the previous FCH JU calls. The main reason is that different competitive phenomena occur in a PEMFC stack such as electrochemistry at catalyst and active layer level, water management in all components between bipolar plates and membrane, and heat management without a global optimization of the fuel cell core component architecture.

Therefore, there is a continuing need to develop existing concepts for the key MEA components such as catalyst, membrane, and GDL, through MEA designs and products demonstrating consistently improved performance (high power density), stability (lifetime with acceptable decay rates), and cost reduction (lowered precious metal loadings) that meet commercialization targets for FCVs. This approach is complementary to that targeted in the topic FCH-01.2-2014 “Cell and stack components, stack and system manufacturing technologies and quality assurance” from the previous call as upstream developments.

In order to reach the OEMs’ requirements for transport application, it is now necessary to design and evaluate strengthened component architecture based either on commercial or innovative components consistent with available industrial processes. To reach this goal, a special attention has to be paid to interface and interaction between all components with new integration concepts and designs.


In order to demonstrate the validity of the individual component improvements despite the competing electrochemical phenomena, demonstration of a full sized stack is mandatory. The following key objectives must be addressed by the project collaboration:

  • Validate performance and durability of single cells or small stacks with adequate cross section area for automotive applications (> 150 cm2). Both experimental and modelling evaluation has to be taken into consideration
  • Understand component and stack degradation mechanisms in real operating conditions using both experimental and modelling approaches
  • Align specifications and interfaces for each component and architecture with special attention to interface optimisation between each component (GDL/electrodes, electrodes/membranes, BP/MEA…)
  • Define, achieve and evaluate new architectures and prototypes optimizing electrochemistry, water and heat management
  • Generate inputs for further development of advanced fuel cell system components in order to fulfil broader requirements of OEMs
  • Transfer of proposals for optimization of Balance-of-Plant components development according to optimized component operating conditions.

The following optional objectives can also be addressed by the project collaboration:

  • Select, modify and adapt components and associated production processes complying with the agreed operations conditions
  • Develop new synthesis and manufacturing methods for MEA components (i.e. catalyst layers, gas diffusion layers…) with optimised structure consistent with operating conditions in order to increase catalyst utilization and durability
  • Develop stack prototypes optimized for the assembling in the process chain Benchmark components and architectures respectively with respect to the operating conditions (passenger cars, buses, material handling equipment…)
  • Identify the most suitable standardized protocols, to qualify components
  • Improve mass manufacturing methods for sheet metal BPP, low cost coatings and sealing

Investigate dismantling of components and recycling of the critical materials

Expected Impact:

Identify and select PEMFC components suitable to reach the main followings KPIs as described in the MAWP:

  • Power density: 1 W/cm2 at 1.5 A/cm2 (at BoL= Begin of Life)
  • Durability: > 6,000 hours (with a nominal power loss < 10 %)
  • FC stack production cost: 50 €/kW at 50 000 units/year production rate

The following key results must be achieved by the project collaboration:

  • Identification and selection of components and their architectures to reach OEM requirements correlated with degradation mechanisms in real operating conditions by means of combined virtual (simulation based) and experimental techniques
  • Development of catalysts and electrode layers with higher mass activity and increased durability allowing for significant reduction in precious metal catalyst loadings or the use of low cost non-platinum group metal catalysts. These should be corrosion resistant, preferably compatible with higher temperature operation (about 120°C) and able to mitigate the consequence of fuel starvation events
  • Development of GDLs and MPLs designed for increased diffusivity, improved water management and heat conduction. GDL thickness has to minimized but be compatible with production in high volumes
  • Design of BPPs with optimised interface with new MEAs in terms of geometry, protective and conductive coating for long lifetime, corrosion stability and production process
  • Design of high performance MEAs using above components. Development of membrane materials suitable for automotive applications (low RH, higher temperature and dynamic load cycling operation)
  • Techno-economic assessment showing that material, design, components & prototypes are compatible with the stringent cost and durability targets for commercialization of FCEVs

The following optional results can be considered by the project collaboration:

  • Demonstrate performances and durability using accelerated test protocols as defined in previous JTI projects (FCTESTNET, FCTESQA, STACKTEST) and the current harmonisation exercise
  • Validate the full value chain of components from the manufacturing up to the stack integration. Proposed components and prototypes should be optimised for easy dismantling and recycling of materials at the end of their active life
  • Develop low cost seals with low O2 permeation rates
  • Standardization potential of components consistent with higher production volumes

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