Reinforced thermosets and thermoplastics are keys to the expansion of fuel cell technology. Fuel cell systems can be classed in portable, transportation or stationary categories, and the technology is maturing: Global revenues for fuel cells totaled $521 million (USD) in 2009, two-thirds of that spent on large, stationary systems, according to GBI Research (New York, N.Y.). In a growing number of installations, composites make up the bi-polar plates, end plates, fuel tanks and other components. Fuel cell technologies of several types offer a “clean” (near-zero VOC) means to convert hydrogen to electrical power. Due to their conductivity, corrosion resistance, dimensional stability, design flexibility, flame resistance and now, lower cost, vinyl ester-based bulk molding compounds with carbon filler and fiber reinforcements are available from several suppliers, including BMCI (West Chicago, Ill.), Premix Inc. (North Kingsville, Ohio) and Bac2 (Southhampton, U.K.). Several large players (e.g., Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, FedEx) and most major carmakers have announced plans to expand their use of fuel cells beyond demonstration projects. Watch for more than 200,000 units to be installed by 2015.
The markets: Fuel cells (2011)
Reinforced thermosets and thermoplastics are likely candidates for the eventual materials of choice used to make the bi-polar plates, end plates, fuel tanks and other components in fuel cell systems. Fuel cell technologies of several types are designed to offer a “clean” (near-ze
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