Automotive industry Fuels | New

IT MIGHT be somewhat removed from the automotive space, but the fact remains that electricity, its production and its use occupy a prominent place in a world towards which we are rapidly moving.

Combined with other forms of new power generation systems, fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen through an electrochemical process. Efficient manufacturing processes for fuel cells are crucial as we move inexorably towards a fossil-free future.

Optima Life Science, a specialist in the field of processing technologies, is currently developing a test converter specifically for the development and testing of innovative manufacturing processes for fuel cells.

Fuel cells as a source of propulsion – via on-board power generation, have featured in automotive design and planning for over a decade, but have yet to be fully resolved to the point of having fuel cell cars available to the buying public. Pure electric vehicles have stolen the race there.

But Optima Life Science receives considerable funding from the Land of Baden-Württemberg in Germany, which promotes the construction of a new test system at Schwaebisch Hall with the Future Program Hydrogen BW.

Optima Life Science already offers high efficiency fuel cell production systems. Based on this experience, the company is currently developing a modular test converter. Innovative ideas and process optimization as well as product development can be implemented quickly and easily using this test converter.

In the future, fuel cell production processes will first be verified in a development environment and then transferred to high-performance production systems. New developments in fuel cell technology will always require new structures and dimensions of the fuel cells as well as the membrane-electrode assembly (MEA).

Due to various influences – and changing methods of transportation – the need for development and refinement of manufacturing processes is in high demand. The Optima MTC (Modular Test Converter) is designed specifically for this purpose and with an adaptable layout of the different processes, the reconfiguration, addition and deletion of process steps becomes a reality.

Individual processes and complex process sequences, up to the finished MEA for the fuel cell can be tested.

Another benefit is reduced economic risk when product development and manufacturing process development can go hand in hand. In addition, sampling and small series production can take place on the Optima MTC system.

The heart of the fuel cell is the membrane-electrode assembly. Hydrogen and oxygen are present and electrical energy and water are produced in an electrochemical reaction. Individual components such as membranes, frame material and gas diffusion layers are each fed from the roll into Optima systems.

Individual parts are custom cut and assembled in the MEA in a complex and continuous process. For fuel cells to achieve the desired level of efficiency, all process steps require maximum precision.

In addition to the manufacturing technologies required for MEA production, Optima offers the traceability of each individual MEA with its digital solutions.

Experiences from already implemented projects and demands from the hydrogen industry have shown that there is a huge need for product and process development. In order to exploit the full potential of the production methods and to support the rapid growth of this future technology, Optima has received funding from the Land of Baden-Württemberg.

As part of the Future Program Hydrogen BW, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector has been financing since the beginning of 2022 a total of 20 hydrogen and fuel cell technology projects.

The German state government is providing budgetary funds of €26.4 million (A$38.9 million) for the development of this technology.