Echoes of a "hydrogen economy" are reverberating across the country, but a number of roadblocks stand in the way. One of the biggest, experts say, is the high cost of manufacturing fuel cells. A new research project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute aims to tackle the challenge of mass production by using robots to assemble fuel cell stacks.
Caption: Simplified schematic representation of a fuel cell stack. Credit: Image courtesy of PEMEAS.
The project, which will combine the resources of Rensselaers Flexible Manufacturing Center (FMC) and Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS), was recently supported with a major research equipment award from the Robotics Industries Association (RIA). As one of four universities selected in a nationwide competition, Rensselaer will receive three new industrial robot systems to help develop a flexible robotic process to produce fuel cell stacks.
"The U.S. Department of Energy has suggested that the cost of manufacturing fuel cells is the single biggest obstacle on the road to the hydrogen economy," says Raymond Puffer, co-director of the FMC. "We are addressing a component that represents a major portion of the total systems cost: the stack assembly in a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell."
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