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25 May, 2007 - 11:35 By Staff Reporter

Fuel cell trio targeting power packs for laptops

Three East of England companies have formed a multi-million pound consortium aimed at slashing the cost of hydrogen fuel cells and moving the technology into the mainstream; power packs for laptops are their first target.

The DTI has invested £1.15m in the collaborative effort between CMR, Johnson Matthey and Accelrys, which will strive to drastically shrink the associated cost of fuel cells by investigating alternatives to the costly element, platinum, used as a catalyst.

The consortium will focus on ways to lower the amount of platinum in fuel cell stacks, such as by alloying the element with other metals – a drive that is taking place across the industry, according to CMR.

“It is primarily about developing better, cheaper catalysts,” said CMR co-founder and CTO, Michael Priestnall. “The formation of this powerful team of complementary skills will enable us to make fuel cells at a lower cost and higher performance.”

CMR will work with Johnson Matthey, the world leader in catalysts and catalysed components for fuel cells, and Accelrys, which uses powerful simulation technologies, with structure determination and modelling tools to assess catalyst performance.

Priestnall added: “CMR has one of the world’s top teams in non- platinum fuel cells, along with our membrane electrode assembly team.

Johnson Matthey’s world class expertise and manufacturing capabilities and Accelrys’ competencies modelling catalyst performance are at the cutting edge of catalyst science.”

“We are also working with academics around the world, looking at interesting scientific advances, and taking the best of what’s occurring.”

CMR’s goal will be to improve existing battery technology in consumer electronics, or more specifically notebook computers. Current batteries, which use lithium ion technology have a short lifetime and poor performance, something which could be revolutionised by CMR’s fuel cell stack technology.

During the project, which has been planned for three years, CMR aims to uncover new components for fuel cell catalysts to develop further and take to market.

Priestnall said: “Our expectation is to deliver a number of specific catalyst materials to use in fuel cells within the 36 months.

“We want to develop tools to allow catalyst performance to be predicted, and applying these tools to develop more active non-platinum materials that we can take well beyond the 36 months. We’re in this to get commercial advantage.”

The £1.15m DTI funding will be spread evenly among the three collaborators. “It is very much a collaboration, with each party contributing time, people and facilities,” said Priestnall.

The triumvirate have worked out a detailed project plan with milestones and targets to be met with the DTI, but the specifics were not disclosed.

 

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