Toho Tenax introduces carbon fiber fabric for fuel cell applications

Toho Tenax Co. Ltd. has developed a gas diffusion layer (GDL) made of a carbon fiber fabric for use as an electrode component for fuel cells.

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On Sept. 15, Toho Tenax Co. Ltd. (Tokyo, Japan), the core company of the Teijin Group’s carbon fiber business, announced that it has developed and recently placed on the market a carbon fiber fabric gas diffusion layer (GDL), a key part of the electrode component in a fuel cell stack.

The GDL supplies hydrogen and oxygen fuel while collecting electrons and discharging water produced at the membrane, so it must be able to conduct electricity and be water-permeable. Although carbon fiber GDLs are in general use because they easily satisfy these performance requirements, the Toho Tenax fabric reportedly exhibits better flexibility and strength than commonly used paper-type GDLs, which are carbon fiber sheets impregnated with resin or other materials. With the new fabric structure, roll-to-roll processing can be performed at high speeds, which reduces costs. Also, water permeability is improved because the new GDL does not need to be impregnated. Greater water permeability enables higher fuel cell output, according to Toho Tenax.

The new product also has lower contact resistance than conventional fabric-type GDLs. This is achieved by forming a uniform surface on the textile using various technologies, including weaving and carbonizing methods that have been refined by Toho Tenax. Lower contact resistance also improves fuel cell performance. The new GDL is available in two thicknesses: 260 nm and 320 nm.

An increasing demand for mobile electronic devices, stationary power supplies and fuel-cell-powered vehicles has focused renewed attention on fuel cells as a virtually emissions-free power source. Based on current market growth, Toho Tenax anticipates a sales volume of ¥1 billion ($12.2 million USD) by 2015. Also, the need for smaller fuel cells to power ever-shrinking electronic devices is prompting the development of ultrathin fabrics with thicknesses of 20 nm and less for future GDL applications.


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