BASF starts up fuel cell facility in New Jersey

06 May 2009 22:18  [Source: ICIS news]

SOMERSET, New Jersey (ICIS news)--German chemicals major BASF has started production of the world’s first high-temperature membrane electrode assembly (MEA) units for commercial use in fuel cell technology at the company’s facility in Somerset, New Jersey, the company said on Wednesday.

The fuel cell facility is the first of its kind in the world, with an integrated assembly line from starting raw materials to the finished MEA unit, according to BASF.

The high temperature MEA unit allows fuel cells to operate at temperatures in the range of 320 to 360 F° (120-180 C°), said BASF.

The facility’s production capacity depends on the size of the MEAs needed. The key strength of BASF’s MEA technology is the ability to specifically customise the units, the company said.

"We can customise to fit our customers' requirements. If they are small MEAs, we can make about a few million. If they are large, we can make a few hundred thousand. The ultimate capacity really depends on the type of [fuel cell] product," said Horst-Tore Land, CEO of BASF Fuel Cell.

Compared to conventional low-temperature fuel cell systems, which operate at a maximum of 175 F°, fuel cells using high-temperature MEAs are tolerant to impurities in hydrogen gas, noted Land.

The latter can be cooled by air, eliminating the need for extra equipment such as air humidifiers, water pumps, tanks, valves, and cleaning systems, he said.

The comparative efficiency of high-temperature fuel cells translates into significant cost reduction, according to Land.

Another key cost element is the platinum used as the catalyst in the electrode. BASF has been able to cut platinum loading by 50%, which lowers the cost of manufacturing significantly, he said.

BASF will sell its MEA units under the brand name Celtec.

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By: Feliza Mirasol
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