Driving forward European fuel cell technology
Read more about driving forward in the GAIA project, which focuses on the development of fuel cell technology.
The GAIA consortium has succeeded in reaching the 1.8 W/cm2 @ 0.6 V power density target set by the FCH 2 JU 2018 Call for Proposals. This leading accomplishment, which hits the FCH 2 JU Multi-Annual Working Plan target for 2024, was achieved with high performance membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) that integrate new materials and designs developed in the project in a full-size-cell (300 cm2) 4-cell stack, providing a Pt specific power density of 0.25 g Pt/kW.
Advancements on a single-component level were not sufficient to reach the very ambitious target, and significant coordinated progress and synchronised innovation in catalysts, catalyst supports, ionomers, membranes, gas diffusion layers, catalyst layers and MEA design were all essential.
GAIA intends to continue to advance in the remaining 9 months of the contract by now targeting 6,000 operation hours, including at 105 °C, of a 10-cell short-stack. A techno-economic evaluation will then assess how the GAIA MEA cost is positioned with respect to the 6 €/kW MEA cost target of the Call.
Why are nanofibres so valued and where do they help?
Nanofibres with diameter measured in nanometers can be made from a variety of polymers and therefore can achieve various physical properties and application potential. All polymer nanofibres are unique due to their large surface-to-volume ratio, high porosity, noticeable mechanical strength and flexibility compared to their microfibre counterparts.
If you are looking for a material that is both durable and flexible, nanofibre is a clear choice.
Compared to conventional fibres, nanofibres are lightweight, have a small diameter and variable pore structure, making them ideal for use in a variety of industries, such as air filtration, liquid filtration, protective clothing manufacturing, tissue engineering, functional materials manufacturing and energy storage.
In addition, they are so variable that they can be made of both synthetic and natural materials. There are, for example, carbon, polymer, graphite, collagen or cellulose nanofibres, and we have not yet listed all the alternatives.
Where do the nanofibres help?
Thanks to their unique physical properties, nanofibres can be used in many areas of human activity. It's not just ultra-fine masks and filters for respirators – nanofibres are helping also elsewhere.
By simply adding thin coatings of electrospun nanofibers to traditional filtration substrates, the filtration performance is enhanced several fold. Nanofibers dramatically improve filtration efficiency, they have low initial and persistent pressure drop and enables possibility to optimize the interaction between flow, efficiency and filter life.
In the field of liquid filtration, nanofibre membranes with pores capable of capturing even the smallest harmful particles are used. Due to the high surface-to-volume ratio and the noticeable surface tension, particles smaller than 1 micrometer are captured. Nanofibre filter technology helps, among other things, in third world countries, where it is necessary to filter polluted water so that it is drinkable and healthy.
In the tissue engineering, nanofibres are used to produce scaffolds that support the growth, multiplication and reproduction of the biological tissue to be replaced. They are most often used to cover and heal burns and to control the release and transport of drugs into damaged tissue. The inherent biodegradability of the scaffold allows tissue transplantation and healing without the need for surgical removal of the nanofibre scaffolding.
Nanofibres have also found application in leisure functional clothing. Nanofibre microporous membranes have the potential to provide the wearer with thermal comfort, a better level of water resistance, and, at the same time, efficiently dissipate vapours.
Photovoltaics and the automotive industry
In the power industry, choosing the right polymer allows electrons or ions to be conducted, making nanofibres interesting for energy production and storage. In this area, nanofibres can be used for photovoltaic panels, battery storage systems and capacitors. The application of nanofibres to rechargeable batteries using silicon properties is currently being considered. This would improve the efficiency of lithium batteries present in plug-in electric vehicles. Nanofibres are already used in the automotive industry to produce more efficient automotive filters.
In the military, nanofibres are used to improve the ability to detect chemical and biological agents. Nanofibre-enriched garments improve the protection of military personnel through their ability to filter and decompose toxins. This particular area of application has given rise to self-cleaning personal protection equipment. These mainly include masks composed of two "layers." The first is used to filter the air, while the second contains activated carbon, which absorbs harmful gases and impurities.