Ideas can work: Valuable materials from fuel cell membrane electrodes

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At the laboratory: Dr. Anwar Sattar, Engineer (Foto: Axion Consulting)

Bramhall, UK — Axion Consulting’s expertise in laboratory-based process development and optimisation work can help turn clients’ recycling concepts into commercial reality, contributing to the recovery of valuable resources within the Circular Economy. A great example of this is the collaborative “Recover R&D” project with fuel cell components manufacturer Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Ltd and nonwoven materials manufacturer Technical Fibre Products. The project was co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Axion’s specialist team developed a financially-viable process to separate and recover the high-value platinum and polymer materials from fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) that has moved the closed-looped recycling of these components further forward. The polymeric membrane conducts protons but is impermeable to electrons; this facilitates the electrolytic reactions of the fuel cell, allowing the creation of electrical current.

Scaled up to potential industrial scale

“We’ve demonstrated a viable process that we developed ourselves from just an idea,” explains Sam Haig, Axion’s Senior Engineer. “Having proven the pilot-scale process, for which a patent has been applied, we are very confident that it can be scaled up to potential industrial scale very easily.”

The ‘process journey’ involved many stages requiring exhaustive testing and evaluation before arriving at the successful pilot scale solution. “What differentiates us from others is that we not only understand the chemistry but also have in-depth technical knowledge of the mechanical and solid separation steps that are often needed for these kinds of processes,” he continues. “We can come in at virtually any stage; whether it’s a problem that needs a solution and then testing, or a client that has a solution but doesn’t have the facilities to take it further.”

The technological capability will be crucial

Sam Haig adds: “From this specific work we have proved that valuable materials, including platinum, can be recovered for reuse in brand new hydrogen fuel cells. As the hydrogen economy continues to develop and grow, the technological capability to recover its valuable resources will be crucial.”

Axion Consulting, part of the Axion Group, develops and evaluates novel resource recovery processes, tests and operates innovative recyclable collection systems as well as offering business planning and financial analysis.

Source: Axion Consulting