SGL Group to develop carbon fiber GDL for EU automotive project

EU-funded project INSPIRE is for the development of fuel cell technology in the automotive sector.

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SGL Carbon SE (Wiesbaden, Germany) is a partner in the joint development project INSPIRE, which has been funded with a €7 million award from Europe’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and will run for three years. The aim of INSPIRE is to develop a new generation of fuel cells with higher performance and longer lifetime, which will play a major role in the electromobility of the future. At the same time, the commercialization of hydrogen-powered vehicles is set to be accelerated, since they represent an alternative to cars with solely battery-based electric propulsion.

SGL Group is responsible for the development of the gas diffusion layers (GDL), which will be manufactured based on carbon fiber. The GDL allows a steady supply of gas to the catalyst layers, which are located on both sides of the ion exchange membrane and which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy and water.

 “INSPIRE, with high-profile partners from the fields of science and industry, offers an excellent platform to accelerate the utilization of fuel cell technology with its innovative materials and components. For SGL Group, it highlights our entrepreneurial claim to play a key role in shaping developments in the megatrends of mobility and energy supply. These include not only graphite anode material for lithium ion batteries and carbon fiber composites for lightweight-construction passenger compartments, but also our gas diffusion layers for alternative drive technologies based on hydrogen,” says Gerd Wingefeld, chief technology officer at SGL Group.

The project, which kicked-off in May 2016, is being carried out under the coordination of Johnson Matthey, a leading manufacturer of catalyst coated membrane units, as well as other industrial companies such as the BMW Group and Dana Holding Corporation (Neu-Ulm), along with several scientific research organizations (CNRS Montpellier, TU Berlin, TU Munich, University of Freiburg, VTT Espoo) and the SME Pretexo. In addition to the focus on development, the partners will also be concentrating on establishing a common European supply chain for these critical components: namely the membrane, catalyst, gas diffusion layers and bipolar plates. With this step, the capability of serial production will also be demonstrated.