Low-cost electrodes for fuel cells

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AFC Energy, the developer of low-cost alkaline fuel cells, has successfully completed trials of its non-platinum-based electrodes for fuel cells.

The tests, which were conducted at AkzoNobel’s chlor-alkali plant in Bitterfeld, Germany, showed that the electrical charge fed into the grid from AFC’s fuel cells were on the same level as fuel cells developed using platinum-based electrodes.

According to the Surrey-based group, the use of non-platinum-based material allows its system to be significantly cheaper. It has now applied for four patents relating to its design and said that the field tests at Bitterfeld were an important step towards full-scale operation.

The company plans to focus on delivering commercially viable fuel-cell systems to the chlor-alkali industry for stationary power generation. It also hopes to target markets that require electricity from hydrogen, including the waste-to-energy market.

As part of plans to do this, AFC is upgrading its development facility and said that work was now close to completion. The changes are aimed at reducing the time taken to develop and optimise electrode materials and to allow the company to rapidly manufacture sufficient product for its initial requirements.

In addition to upgrades to its development facility, AFC said it is continuing to concentrate on further development of its low-cost electrodes to accelerate the development of its 50kW fuel-cell system.

Ian Balchin, AFC’s managing director, said: ‘This successful testing of our fuel-cell system using proprietary, lower-cost electrodes demonstrates that the AFC Energy has taken the next step in the development of a truly low-cost, commercially viable, alkali fuel-cell system.

‘Our sights are very much set on our 50kW system, which will become the building block for multi-megawatt installations. We now expect to have our 50kW system available for field trials as early as the first calendar quarter of 2011 and our smaller system to be available during 2010.’