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Real-time, in-line automated quality control for fuel cells

Jan Harry Hales

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Real-time, in-line automated quality control for fuel cells

Danish Technological Institute has established an automated fuel cell electrode manufacturing platform with integrated quality control.

An essential component in fuel cells are the so-called gas diffusion electrodes, which among other elements contains large amounts of precious metals, specifically platinum. In our effort to commercialize micro fuel cells, we have established an automated electrode manufacturing platform. This platform can in principle be used for a wide range of deposition tasks. To ensure that the end-user receives the best price and performance it is important to include automated and in-line quality control.

This has been accomplished by integrating various sensors; vision, temperature and height measurements that are coupled with process data to provide instant and traceable quality control and assurance.

Case:
A gas diffusion electrode can be made of a carbon cloth on which several layers of an ink with carbon supported platinum is deposited. The electrode performance is determined by the platinum loading and electrode porosity. Therefore, each deposited layer must be evenly distributed. The specific coating process has been optimized to ensure a uniform platinum loading and electrode porosity also on very thick electrodes with multiple layers.

Initially the carbon backing layer is scanned to verify that the surface is defect free; this is done with a combination of a vision system and a height map. The ink that will be sprayed on the carbon backing layer is also subjected to quality control. In this case, the particle size distribution, zeta potential and viscosity are measured.

During the spraying process the ultrasonic spray head operating parameters are closely monitored and automatic cleaning of the spray head is conducted during the electrode fabrication process.

The finished electrode is subjected to a height and vision scan. The acquired production data is stored in a dedicated database and can be accessed through a webpage. 

How can the Danish Technological Institute help you?

  • Pilot production of gas diffusion electrodes
  • Implementation and integration of sensors
  • Support on activities related to R&D, pilot production and up-scaling