Fuel cell materials manufacturer Bac2 (Southhampton, U.K.) on March 26 announced that it will launch its first standard product - blank bipolar plates for polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The plates, which are based on Bac2's conductive polymer, ElectroPhen, reportedly can be machined more simply than metal plates, making them ideal for fuel cell prototyping and development work. Each plate measures 300 mm by 200 mm by 3 mm, and its conductivity exceeds U.S. Department of Energy specifications for use in automotive applications. Up to 100 plates can be ordered on seven-day delivery. It is anticipated that customers will purchase blank plates for fuel cell stack evaluation before migrating to custom-molded ElectroPhen plates.
Bipolar plates make up to 30 percent of the cost of a PEM fuel cell stack. ElectroPhen has a raw state conductivity 1 billion times greater than commonly used resin binders, which means that no post-processing, such as extreme temperature or surface machining, is required to meet conductivity goals. ElectroPhen plates are said to be easily molded and economical to produce in high volume. The material can be customised with plasticizers, reinforcers and conductive fillers, allowing fine-tuning of characteristics for specific applications. ElecroPhen is thermally stable, resilient to temperature and inert towards fuel cell catalysts and membranes. It cures at room temperature and its basic raw materials are widely available from major chemical suppliers.