Fuel Cell Catalyst is a
quarterly newsletter linking Vol. 2, No. 1 • Fall 2001
government and industry
fuel cell activities.
Inside: National Laboratories: A Key to U.S.
U.S. National Labs Contribute to DOE Fuel Cell
Vehicle Programs: The Annual National Laboratory R&D
Meeting of the DOE Fuel Cells for Transportation Program was
Leadership in Fuel Cell Technology
held in June 2001. In this issue, The Catalyst takes a look at the ational laboratories throughout the country are contributing significantly to the ad-
role of the U.S. National Laboratories in the research and vancement of fuel cell technology for stationary power, transportation, and portable
development of fuel cell technology, and some of the latest power applications. Almost every national laboratory is contributing in some way to
contributions the labs have made to DOE’s Fuel Cells for fundamental understanding, materials research, technology development and/or testing
related to fuel cell technology.
In many cases, national laboratories are participating in partnerships with industry,
academia, and government agencies. Industrial relationships in the area of fuel cell
features: technology include those with International Fuel Cells, FuelCell Energy, Siemens
Westinghouse Power Corporation, Plug Power, Honeywell, E-Tek, NexTech Materials, Nuvera,
National Labs: A Key to U.S. Leadership
Hydrogen Burner Technology, McDermott, and many more.
in Fuel Cell Technology ........................... 1
The current article will not be able to address all of the contributions that national
Oak Ridge Lab Works on Bipolar Plates
for Fuel Cells .......................................... 2 laboratories have made, or all efforts that are currently under way at national laborato-
DOE Forms High-Temp Membrane Group .... 2 ries. Rather, this text provides a brief overview of some recent activities to provide
BNL’s Work on Fuel Cell Electrocatalysts .... 3 perspective on the significant national laboratory contributions to U.S. leadership in fuel
Autothermal Reforming of Gasoline cell technology development.
for Automobiles ..................................... 3 In the stationary power sector, several national laboratories are contributing to the
Calendar ..................................................... 4 development of molten carbonate, proton exchange membrane and solid oxide fuel cell
Industry Notes ........................................... 4 technology. Solid oxide fuel cells have received particular interest in recent years with
expertise and advancements at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Pacific Northwest
Fuel Cell Catalyst is a quarterly publication by National Lab (PNNL), Sandia National Lab (SNL), Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL),
the U.S. Fuel Cell Council, National Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), National Energy Technology Lab (NETL), and
Technology Laboratory, and National Fuel Cell others.
Research Center. News and press releases should NETL has led the United States in supporting the development of stationary power
be sent to Bernadette Geyer, editor,
email@example.com. fuel cells (from PAFC to MCFC and SOFC technologies), primarily through its direct support
Subscribe at http://lb.bcentral.com/ex/manage/
of industrial and other partners. In-house research and development at NETL has also
suscriberprefs?customerid=9927 contributed to the understanding of fuel cell systems and dynamics as well as cell perfor-
mance. PNNL has world-recognized expertise and accomplishments in solid oxide fuel
cells, fuel processors, stack and systems analyses. SNL has led efforts in hydrogen
The U.S. Department of infrastructure, diesel fuel processing, and remote power. LLNL and LBNL have each made
Energy national laboratories significant contributions to materials science, engineering and manufacturing for solid
oxide fuel cells in particular, and fuel cells in general.
are working with industry In the transportation sector -- which is the focus of this issue of the Catalyst --
partners to develop
several national laboratories have contributed significantly toward advancements in mate-
rials and components for fuel cell stacks and for fuel processors. LANL has led a number
technologies that overcome of significant electrochemistry and materials research efforts aimed at improving fuel cell
efficiency and reducing cost. These investigations have included the development of
critical barriers to optimized electrodes with higher activity, increased CO tolerance, and less platinum; more
automotive fuel cell efficient fuel cell system designs; and direct methanol fuel cells. Argonne National Lab
(ANL) has significantly advanced autothermal reforming technology (see the article by
development. Michael Krumpelt, page 3). ANL has also investigated alternative shift catalysts and sulfur
removal technologies, and is working together with LANL to understand fuel composition
From a U.S. DOE Office of Transportation effects on fuel cell system performance, and advanced CO clean-up technology.
Technologies fact sheet. PNNL has developed a novel microchannel steam reforming technology that is of
p a g e 2 • F u e l C e l l C a t a l y s t • Fall ’ 0 1 interest to fuel cell system developers for all sectors. Fuel cell efficiency advancements
are being made by LBNL through identification and investigation of new alloy
electrocatalysts. ORNL is developing composite bipolar plates (see article on page 2),
and has made significant contributions in the areas of MEA characterization, MEA
DOE Forms High-Temp backing layers, surface modification of bipolar plates, and novel heat-transfer materials
Membrane Working Group for thermal management. Important contributions in fuel cell system and fuel cell
vehicle analyses have been made by ANL and National Renewable Energy Laboratory
At the June 2001 Annual National Labora- (NREL).
tory R&D Meeting of the DOE Fuel Cells for Trans- In the area of low power applications, LANL has made significant contributions to
portation Program, Tom Zawodzinski of Los direct methanol fuel cell technology, a prime candidate for portable electronic devices.
Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) presented in- Prominent examples of portable fuel cell technology are those developed by LANL, and
formation on the Lab’s research and develop- transferred to Motorola and Mechanical Technology Inc., and by Dr. Robert Hockaday of
ment of high-temperature polymer membranes Manhattan Scientifics (formerly with LANL) to power cellular phones.
for fuel cells, and announced the formation of These efforts and many more at U.S. national laboratories have contributed sig-
the DOE High Temperature Membrane (HTM) Work- nificantly to our understanding and advancement of fuel cell technology.
The Working Group was established to draw upon J A C O B B R O U W E R , P H . D . , A S S O C I AT E D I R E C T O R ,
N AT I O N A L F U E L C E L L R E S E A R C H C E N T E R
the expertise of academic, government, and in- UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
dustry scientists to address the very challenging
need for polymer electrolyte membranes that can
operate at temperatures above 100 degrees Cen-
tigrade. DOE has set an interim target of 120
Oak Ridge Lab Works on Bipolar
degrees Centigrade, and an ultimate target of
150 degrees Centigrade. Research and develop-
ment results and fuel cell system modeling will
be used to assess targets as the program
progresses. Plates for Fuel Cells
The Working Group meets biannually, usually in he bipolar plate is one of the key components of proton exchange membrane (PEM)
conjunction with another fuel cell-related meet- fuel cells. The development of materials suitable for use as bipolar plates is tech-
ing. At the next meeting, scheduled for Novem- nically challenging due to the need to maintain high electrical conductivity in both
ber 13 in Washington, DC, the Working Group oxidizing and reducing environments, exhibit chemical compatibility with the aqueous
will discuss the status of high temperature PEM environment and the polymer electrolyte, provide mechanical integrity, and separate/
technology and finalize the HTM R&D Roadmap. distribute anodic and cathodic reactant gas streams.
A key requirement for transportation-related applications is that the material
Working Group activities are just ramping up to
must not only be inexpensive, but must also be amenable to high volume, low cost
coincide with the initiation of several new DOE/
manufacturing techniques. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Cells in Transporta-
industry projects on HTMs. University participa-
tion Program has set a bipolar plate cost target of $10/kW, which roughly translates
tion in the DOE HTM Program is included through
into a cost range of $1-2 per plate (≈ 500 cm2 area).
industry subcontracts or through LANL. Partici-
At Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) we are pursuing two distinct approaches
pation in the Working Group is open. For more
to meet this goal: carbon composites and diffusion-coated metals. High-density graph-
information on joining, contact Tom Zawodzinski
ite has traditionally been used for bipolar plates due to the high electrical conductivity
at (505) 667-0925, or JoAnn Milliken, DOE, at
and inertness of carbon-based materials in PEM fuel cell environments. However,
machining and material costs are prohibitive.
JOANN MILLIKEN To reduce these costs, we have developed a low-cost, slurry-molding process to
U . S . D E PA R T M E N T O F E N E R G Y
produce a carbon-fiber preform, into which flow fields are embossed or pressed. The
plate is made hermetic through chemical vapor infiltration with carbon, which also
serves to make the component highly conductive. Preliminary in-cell testing has
yielded very promising results and cost estimates suggest that <$2/plate is achievable.
Oak Ridge Work is proceeding in cooperation with Porvair Fuel Cell Technology, which has licensed
researchers the technology, to scale up production to the pilot plant level and provide significant
are also numbers of plates for evaluation.
studying Thin metallic bipolar plates (≤ 0.25mm) also offer the potential to meet DOE
algae that target cost goals for transportation-related applications, with the added advantage of
can be used
significantly higher power densities than carbon fiber (and carbon-polymer) bipolar
hydrogen for plates. However, inadequate corrosion resistance can lead to high electrical resistance
fuel cells. and/or contaminate the proton exchange membrane.
A recently initiated effort at ORNL is devoted to the development of a new family
of bipolar plate alloys specifically designed to form an electrically conductive and
Fall ’ 0 1 • F u e l C e l l C a t a l y s t • p a g e 3
corrosion resistant titanium-nitrogen-based surface layer during thermal (gas) nitriding.
Unlike many deposition processes, which tend to leave pin-hole defects, gas nitridation
and related diffusion coating processes involve the elevated-temperature interaction of all
exposed metal surfaces with the reactant gas and have the potential to achieve a defect-
free protective layer. Early results indicate that adherent, electrically conductive TiN sur-
face layers can be successfully formed on iron-titanium and nickel-
titanium base alloys by this approach. Evaluation and optimiza-
tion of corrosion resistance is under way.
TED BESMANN, CARBON COMPOSITE BIPOLAR PLATES, ORNL,
BESMANNTM@ORNL.GOV Reforming of
MIKE BRADY, METAL BIPOLAR PLATES, ORNL, BRADYMP@ORNL.GOV
BNL’s Work on Fuel Cell
Electrocatalysts B ack in the early days of the
DOE/DOT fuel cells for trans-
portation program, when Argonne
National Laboratory and Georgetown University were building the
T he recent fuel cell electrocatalysis research at Brookhaven
National Laboratory (BNL) has focused on improving the car-
bon monoxide (CO) tolerance of platinum-ruthenium (Pt-Ru)
first fuel cell-powered buses, it became obvious that the steam re-
forming technology for making hydrogen would not be suitable for
vehicles. The methanol steam reformer on board the buses was the
electrocatalysts and on the reduction of Pt loading. This research size of a 55-gallon drum and its load following capability was terrible.
is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and its Office of Shortly thereafter, DOE initiated a program to develop fuel pro-
Transportation Technologies. cessing technology that could potentially fit under the hood of a car
Small concentrations of CO are inevitable in H2 produced by and respond to the power demands of an urban driving cycle. Auto-
reforming methanol or other fuels, one option for PEM fuel cell thermal reforming emerged as a promising option, because the heat
systems. Both improved CO tolerance and reduced Pt loading can required to convert a hydrocarbon fuel into a hydrogen-rich gas for a
be achieved by a new method of design and preparation of the Pt- fuel cell can be generated in situ, and therefore the reaction is not
Ru electrocatalyst. This method involves a spontaneous deposi- heat transfer limited. To obtain good system efficiencies, a catalyst
tion of Pt submonolayers on metallic Ru nanoparticles, which yields had to be found that would permit the reaction to occur at tempera-
electrocatalysts having a considerably lower Pt loading and higher tures less than 700-800o C.
CO tolerance than the commercial Pt-Ru alloy electrocatalysts. Taking a clue from the fact that solid oxide fuel cell anodes have
Spontaneous deposition of Pt offers a unique possibility to good internal reforming properties, we found catalysts consisting of
place the Pt atoms onto the surface of Ru nanoparticles, which group VIII metals on oxide ion conducting substrates that are remark-
most likely makes almost all of them available for reaction, in ably active for autothermal reforming. These catalysts have won an
contrast to the Pt-Ru alloy catalysts that have Pt throughout the R&D 100 award and are now commercially available from Sud Chemie
alloy nanoparticles. Thus, an ultimate reduction of Pt loading can in Kentucky under a license from Argonne.
be achieved. The product gas from the reformer contains still substantial amounts
A fine-tuning of the electrocatalyst’s activity and selectivity of carbon monoxide and some hydrogen sulfide. Polymer electrolyte
by changing the coverage (cluster size) of Pt for optimal perfor- fuel cells will not tolerate either. A complete fuel processor must in-
mance under required CO tolerance levels is also facilitated by this clude a water gas shift stage where carbon monoxide is converted to
method. The results of this research indicate that it is possible to carbon dioxide and more hydrogen. It may have a sulfur scrubber and
meet the DOE targets for Pt loadings in fuel cell anodes. a preferential oxidizer to reduce carbon monoxide levels into the parts
per million range. Each of these stages has its preferred temperature
RADOSLAV ADZIC, BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LABORATORY window. Thermally integrating the various fuel processing stages with
fuel evaporation and steam generation is critical for good overall effi-
ciency. Argonne has built and operated 10-kW gasoline processors
achieving efficiencies of 85%. The processor shown in the above
photograph has a volume of only 15 liters.
Having its origin in the automotive program, ANL’s technology is
photo above right: Argonne’s autothermal fuel processor for gasoline, being now being adapted to natural gas for stationary fuel cell sys-
capable of supplying hydrogen for a 15-kilowatt fuel cell. The processor tems by H2fuel LLC. Commercialization is anticipated in the near fu-
achieved an efficiency of 85 percent. ture.
MICHAEL KRUMPELT, FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY,
ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY
Calendar industry notes
The Power to Choose: Creating
an Expanded DER Industry R&D 100 Awards Competition Recognizes Achievements of Argonne
Washington, DC, USA - 28-30 November 2001. and Sandia National Laboratories. The R&D 100 Awards, given annually by R&D
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Magazine, honors outstanding new technologies, processes, materials, and software with
commercial potential. Twenty-six of the 100 awards given this year were bestowed on
Material Technologies for Fuel technologies resulting from U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored research, including
Cells and Power Electronics two from the Department’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell programs.
Cocoa Beach, Florida, USA - 14-15 January 2002.
Visit http://www.ceramics.org/meetings/ECD2002/expo.asp for Argonne National Laboratory received an award for its autothermal reforming catalyst
more information. for fuel, which is the key component of a fuel processor that extracts hydrogen from
hydrocarbon fuels, for use in fuel cells (see article on page 3).
The Global Alternative Fuels
Forum Sandia National Laboratory received an award for its polymer “hydrogen getters,” which
Stuttgart, Germany - 12-14 February 2002. can permanently and irreversibly remove unwanted hydrogen and, as a result, can
Contact email@example.com for details. prevent explosions caused by hydrogen mixing with the atmosphere in sealed consumer
Electric Power 2002: Focal
Point for the Power Industry DOE’s SECA Program Awards $500 Million for Solid Oxide Fuel Cell
St. Louis, Missouri, USA - 19-21 March 2002. Research. DOE’s Solid-State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) has awarded four
Visit http://www.electricpowerexpo.com/ for more information. industry teams with contracts for a 10-year, $500 million effort to produce low-cost solid
oxide fuel cells. The four teams are: Honeywell, Inc. (Torrance, CA); Siemens
2002 Future Car Congress Westinghouse (Pittsburgh, PA); the team of Delphi Automotive Systems (Flint, MI) and
Arlington, Virginia, USA - 3-5 June 2002. Battelle (Columbus, OH); and the team of Cummins Power Generation (Minneapolis, MN)
Visit http://www.futurecarcongress.org/ for more information. and McDermott Technology Inc. (Alliance, OH). DOE’s National Energy Technology and
Pacific Northwest National Laboratories are the driving forces behind SECA.
1625 K Street, NW, Suite 725
Washington, DC 20006 USA