As a clean and efficient fuel, methanol has already long been established on the market for off-grid fuel cell applications with small outputs of up to 250 watts. In the power range up to 3 kilowatts, the demand for systems is huge, for example, for material handling or for range extenders in electric vehicles. However, the systems are not yet commercially available.
The joint project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) was therefore aimed at further developing a methanol-gas process technology for reformers of PEM fuel cells with an electrical power of up to 3 kilowatts. On the basis of function models, the conversion, gas quality, efficiency and scalability were improved. The new design of the reformer reduces pressure loss, cuts the auxiliary power requirement by approximately two thirds and was optimised for production in medium-sized quantities.
Different manufacturing technologies were used for the new design. Porous reformer disks were produced using powder metallurgy. The copper frame components, which were previously milled, can now be manufactured in larger numbers using established procedures, such as die-cutting, punching or the hot extrusion process. In the reformer, a newly developed coating protects the copper components from corrosion in the oxidising environment and at the same time allows a good transfer and distribution of heat. Using metal 3D screen printing, the printability of the material can be proven. Tests on frame plates with complex geometry were extremely promising.
The developed gas processor system can be implemented as a modular system to supply low-temperature PEM fuel cells or can also be used for high-temperature PEM stacks with higher CO tolerance by omitting fine cleaning.