Project underway to develop fuel-cell recycling process
Work has begun on the development of a new recycling process to recover and re-use high-value materials from waste fuel-cells.
The purpose of the Recover project is to realise the technical and financial practicability of recovering and re-using high-value materials from fuel-cell membrane electrode assemblies and work out if there is potential for a new UK-based global recycling business.
The initial process steps have been proven, but research is underway to evaluate the viability for commercial operation and developing a take-back system for end-of-life fuel cells - such as those from forklift trucks, mobile phone masts and electric vehicles.
Recover will see resource recovery consultancy, Axion, develop the primary recycling routes, nonwoven manufacturer, Technical Fibre Products (TFP), lead on the recovery and re-use of the carbon fibres and speciality chemicals company, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, oversee the re-use of materials in fuel-cells and the recovery and recycling of precious metals. The project will be funded by Innovate UK.
Axion director Roger Morton said: "It [the project] offers exciting potential using really elegant chemistry. The ability to recycle fuel cells is important as they will be powering the vehicles and technology of the future, which needs to be cost-effective if they are to be acceptable to both consumers and manufacturers.
"To make fuel cells more cost-effective, we need to reduce their whole-life cost and maximise the value of the resources they contain, such as platinum, high-value polymers and carbon fibre. Recycling them would also improve resource-efficiency and security of supply for these expensive and critical materials."
A unique feature of the project is that fuel-cells are designed for recycling so the products are easier to recycle in the first place.
Mr Morton concluded: "The hydrogen economy will continue to develop and grow; it is the future. In 10 to 15 years' time, significant quantities of fuel cells will reach the end of their lives and having the technological capability to recover their valuable resources will be crucial."
In June last year, Hyundai tasked students at the London College of Fashion (LCF) with creating a 'mobile marketing campaign' to communicate the benefits of Hyundai's zero-emission ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle.
Last week, edie reported on the announcement that Toyota will freely share all of its hydrogen fuel cell technology in order to spur development of low-emission cars around the world.