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Direct methanol fuel cell : system development and a stack construction



The Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC) is an electrochemical power source based on a simple principle but which is difficult to realise as a commercial power generator. The objectives of the project are the evaluation of a multi-celled direct methanol fuel cell system and a subsequent development of a fuel cell in the kW power range. Further, the aim is to develop a process which would render a uniform and reproducible manufacturing process of large membrane/electrode units possible. Cost reduction and economical performance of the stack will also be a key point.
Technical Approach

In pursuing the goal, the combined effort on the development of catalysts, membrane/electrode units and system/stacks will concentrate on seeking new constructional and functional materials, especially catalysts for the anode and cathode with low loadings of noble metals and optimised
membrane/electrode assemblies. This will be achieved by the development of specifically tailored types of carbon supported Pt/Ru base anode catalysts for increased activity for the methanol electro-oxidation, and cathode catalysts for oxygen reduction which are more tolerant to the presence of methanol arising from permeation through the membrane electrolyte. These aspects in turn will serve to optimise the membrane/electrode units by taking into account the electrode structure and the catalyst utilisation, and ultimately to scale-up of assembly fabrication.

The process management would depend on the nature of operation and the resulting cell reactions. So a multi-celled battery will be constructed and put on trial under different operational conditions to verify the performance, process control and regulation. The trial will also lead to the choice of suitable constructional materials. Based on the experience gained, an optimal system will be adapted for the cell design in constructing and testing a 1 kW demonstrator stack.

Expected Achievements and Exploitation

The actual focus is on the development of power sources for electric vehicles and on the cogeneration of heat and power. It fits also in the central strategy to investigate new traffic systems and also new energy supply systems for decentralised and mobile applications. The evaluation of new technologies, which are more efficient and less polluting to the environment, is an essential task for the future energy supply. Solid Polymer Fuel Cells are favourite candidates for it.

However, in a first step it has to be ascertained whether the DMFC can fulfil the technical and cost requirements of the different commercial applications. The main expected achievement of this project is to confirm this on an experimental basis. A DMFC suitable for the propulsion of electric vehicles is obviously viewed as an attractive market for Siemens. For Johnson Matthey the optimisation and scale up of catalysts will ensure a market. Other possible markets within the range of the company's activities will also be evaluated, e.g. emergency power supply.
Direct and indirect methanol fuel cells are considered key components together with high power batteries and supper capacitors for electrical vehicle drive train applications.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Siemens AG

91050 Erlangen

Participants (2)

Innovision A/S
5260 Odense S
United Kingdom
Blounts Court, Sonning Common
RG4 9NH Reading