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Clean Hydrogen Partnership

Next generation of improved High Temperature Membrane Electrode Assembly for Aviation

H2-based fuel cell systems (FCs) are a promising solution to power aircrafts without emitting CO2 or NOx and thus have the potential to strongly reduce aviation emissions and pave the way to climate neutrality. Embedded in aircrafts, FCs can supply non-propulsive and propulsive energy without pollutant emission, reduced noise emission and attractive energy efficiency. 

The Low Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (LT-PEM) technology (incl. Membrane Electrode Assembly - MEA) emerging from the automotive industry is of great interest for aviation, but thermal management issues are still be solved. Operated below 100°C, they exhibit attractive power density but are incompatible with aircraft environment due to poor heat rejection. Also, current High Temperature FCs operated around 160°C are not at the expected level of performance for aviation, despite interesting heat rejection performances. The development of a new-generation MEA, working at temperature above 120°C and with performances equivalent to current LT-PEM MEA is the key to unlock FC applications for aviation.

NIMPHEA aims at developing - based on the development and/or optimisation of its components: catalyst layer, membrane and gas diffusion layer - a new-generation HT MEA compatible with aircraft environment and requirements, considering a system size of 1.5 MW and contributing to higher level FC targets: a power density of 1.25 W/cm² at nominal operating temperature comprised between 160°C-200°C. MEA components’ upscale synthesis and assembly process will be assessed by identifying process parameters and improved through an iterative process with lab-scale MEA tests. This disruptive MEA technology will be finally validated in a representative scale prototype (165-180 cm²) embodied in a single-cell. Simultaneously, LCA, LCC, eco-efficiency assessment and intrinsic hazard analysis will be performed to validate the MEA development. Finally, a TRL evaluation will be conducted to validate TRL4.