Over the past few years it seems like I’ve talked about hydrogen fuel cells ad nauseam. I’ve spoken about fuel cells that are being developed with platinum nanowires, carbon, nitrogen, iron, doped nanotubes, mushroom enzymes, polymers, plastics, nickel, hydrazine hydrate and other enzymes.
What I’ve neglected to talk about over time, however, is how researchers and manufacturers are supposed to test hydrogen fuel cells so that they may keep improving the size, weight, durability, life cycle and materials used.
A company called FuelCon has developed an advanced testing system for the proton conductivity of fuel cells. According to FuelCon, “With the ‘TrueXessory-PCM Proton Conductivity Measurement’ market launch FuelCon provides a testing system for the development of more efficient fuel cell membranes. The new product allows highly reproducible in-plane measurements of the proton conductivity of PEM and DMFC membranes under defined humidification and temperatures up to 200°C. Designed as a tabletop system, complex hardware like a complete test station including gas supply is not required.”
One of the problems that fuel cells for hydrogen cars have had in the past is a short life cycle. Some earlier prototype GM models had fuel cells that were only rated for around 50,000 miles. The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) has stated that hydrogen fuel cells for cars will be ready for prime time when they have a durability of 5,000 hours (or roughly 150,000 miles).
By having the tools to quickly test new methods and materials for creating fuel cells, the development time should be shortened considerably. Also, improved conductivity means more power and smaller fuel cells, which impact the weight of the vehicle and where the fuel cell system can be placed. Having the right tools to bench test hydrogen fuel cells is a positive step towards commercialization that should not be ignored.