Furthering its leadership position in the development of energy management solutions, BASF today announced it has officially opened its BASF Fuel Cell production facility in Somerset, New Jersey. The modern facility uses advanced production and automation technologies to fabricate ready-for-use high-temperature Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) units -- the heart of the fuel cell. In a MEA, hydrogen and air react to water generating electrical power and heat. The proprietary and innovative BASF products are marketed under the brand name Celtec(R) and will enable the fuel cell industry to meet the current and growing challenges of future energy supply.
BASF's tradition of materials innovation and commitment to sustainable development continues with this advancement from BASF Fuel Cell. The novel MEA developed by BASF is opening new horizons for system builders as it contains the world's first commercially available high temperature membrane for fuel cells that allows operating temperatures in the range of 320 to 360 F (120-180 degrees C). This innovation, with the unique ability to run without any humidification, has therefore a considerable advantage over other Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell technologies, including a far simpler system and tolerance to impurities in hydrogen and air.
Celtec(R) high-temperature MEAs are used in numerous product applications, e.g. private home electricity and heat supply units providing electricity and hot water at unprecedented efficiencies or backup-systems to ensure electrical power.
"BASF has made a decisive breakthrough in fuel cells with the development of the high-temperature MEA," said Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer, Research Executive Director and Member of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF, at the inaugural event. "The aim of the world-class Somerset, New Jersey facility is to meet the current and greatly increasing demand from customers. Future enhancements and refinements of BASF's proprietary MEA product in conjunction with system developments by our alternative energy partners will make fuel cell energy realistic, affordable and widely available."
The most immediate challenge facing developers is to develop a highly reliable and cost effective fuel cell system for practical applications. The key factor in achieving this is for the system to have as few components as possible. Conventional low temperature fuel cell systems, which operate at a maximum of 175 F (80 degrees C) need a large number of ancillary units, a complex control and hydration system as well as a reformer with a hydrogen gas purification unit to function. Fuel cells equipped with BASF's high-temperature Celtec(R) MEA are tolerant to impurities in the hydrogen gas; they can be cooled by the air and do not have to be hydrated with water. This eliminates the need for air humidifiers, water pumps, tanks, valves and cleaning systems.
"Thanks to the proprietary Celtec(R) MEA from BASF, fuel cell systems now need substantially fewer components and this translates into cost savings for our customers," said Dr. Horst-Tore Land, CEO, BASF Fuel Cell Inc. "The development of the high-temperature MEA enables our customers to manufacture commercially viable fuel cell products."