HyPoint’s aviation-targeted fuel cells were already promising three times the power of a normal fuel cell by weight, but a new proton-conductive membrane developed in collaboration with BASF is projected to boost their power density by another 50%.
The gases hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) are positioned on opposite sides of a membrane that allows only single, positively charged hydrogen protons to flow through. On the hydrogen side, a platinum catalyst breaks each H2 molecule into two H+ protons and two electrons. Protons go across the membrane to the oxygen side, where they are met by electrons who have flowed through an electrical circuit to create current. On the opposite side, the electrons, protons, and oxygen unite to form water.
BASF has now developed a novel membrane that can operate at higher temperatures and pressures than previously possible, as well as having improved mechanical characteristics. HyPoint, on the other hand, is working on a “turbo air-cooled” fuel cell that differs from typical designs in that it employs greater temperatures and pressures to drive more protons across the membrane quicker, resulting in more power.
According to HyPoint, it’s significantly lighter than other fuel cells on the market for a given output power, partly because it doesn’t require any cooling equipment. It’s very appealing for use in zero-emission airplanes because of this. According to the firm, it also lasts four times as long as prior designs and works well with lower-purity hydrogen.
The two businesses have teamed together to test and develop the new BASF membrane, and the results are expected to be remarkable. According to a news release, “the new high-performance fuel cell system is projected to generate more than 3,000 W/kg, an improvement of at least 50% over the existing system.” In comparison, conventional fuel cells, according to HyPoint, generally provide between 150 and 800 W/kg. HyPoint’s fuel cells will be much more resistant to contaminants in hydrogen fuel thanks to the improved membranes.
It should be proved and accessible to clients by mid-2024, according to the businesses. This type of optimization effort stands to be a significant advancement in the world of electric aviation, where weight is crucial and every pound saved means a little more range you can fly or a little more payload you can carry.