A £1.1 million project aimed at creating new platinum based catalyst layer designs for fuel cells has been awarded funding by the Technology Strategy Board. Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Ltd is leading the NECLASS project (Nano-Engineered Catalyst Layers and Sub-Structures), and together with partners Qudos Technology Ltd, Teer Coatings Ltd and Thomas Swan + Co. Ltd, is developing novel micro-and nano-structured materials to enable a significantly increased oxygen reduction mass activity of platinum within the fuel cell catalyst layers. Effective use of the precious metal platinum in the catalyst layers is one of the keys to unlocking the widespread commercialisation of the more energy efficient fuel cell power generation technology.
Qudos Technology is investigating micro-scale templating of catalyst layers and interfaces to increase the interfacial area and the access and egress of the reactants and products to the active layer, whereas at the nano-scale Teer Coatings is developing thin conformal Pt coatings onto carbon particulate and fibre materials by physical vapour deposition. Thomas Swan is studying the surface functionalisation of carbon nanotubes for application as the catalyst support in the catalyst layer. Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells will integrate these complementary developments into membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) and test them in practical fuel cells.
Thomas Swan is one of the largest family owned chemical companies in the UK. It was founded by “Tommy Swan” in 1926 and has been managed by four generations of the Swan family, and as such has been independent for over 80 years. Thomas Swan specialises in Performance and Speciality chemicals, has a turnover of ~£17M with 120 employees and has offices in the UK, USA and China. Between 2001 and 2004, in association with the University of Cambridge, Thomas Swan developed a manufacturing process for single and multi-wall carbon nanotubes. Further work with the University of Oxford focused on purification and dispersion of the nanotubes, and the product was launched under the Elicarb® brand name in April 2004. Thomas Swan’s role in the NECLASS project is to design, manufacture, purify and functionalise an ideal and optimised carbon nanotube for use as the catalyst support in fuel cells.