Electrolyzers and fuel cells are the bee’s knees right now. Due to the recent geopolitical occurrences, companies and governments around the world are looking for energy alternatives to be able to replace the now scarce and expensive energy sources.
While researchers are already working to produce renewable and sustainable alternatives, cost factors are getting in their way. That’s why CAPLINQ, researched and developed new-age carbon papers that can maximize performance while reducing production costs, as much as possible.
If we want to delve deep into the factors that we can min max to effectively minimize the electrolyzer production cost it is very important to understand how carbon papers are made.
Reducing the cost of Carbon papers
Now that we understand how carbon papers are made, we can also have a better insight into how we can minimize their production cost. Furnaces running at 2000°C for hours are as expensive and energy-intensive as it sounds. So optimizing carbon paper production schedules can procure both financial and environmental benefits.
There are three factors that we can optimize in order to reduce the cost of carbon papers:
1. Optimize furnace runs
This is by far the most important part of the equation since furnace runs are expensive! The furnaces used for Carbon papers are the same equipment used for Sintered Titanium. Graphitization happens at temperatures as high as 2000°C. CAPLINQ operates in two different temperatures. 1600°C for “low” temperature treatment and 2000°C for carbon sheets with high temperature graphitization. You can imagine that with today’s gas prices, furnace runs are a huge part of the total cost, which amounts to something more than 50% of the operating expenses.
Low volumes are expensive. Whether the furnace runs 1 part or 10,000 parts, the furnace cost is the same. Hence, there is a linear relationship between cost and the number of units produced. Ideally, every batch should be a full furnace in order to minimize the energy consumption and the energy cost per sheet produced. This is important to keep in mind when you just need a couple of sheets.
2. Reduce machining costs
Cooperating with end customers to optimize the process for their end dimensions and tolerances is of the utmost importance. If everyone could use raw, max sheet sizes, directly from the furnace, the cost could be reduced by almost 25%. But precise thicknesses and very tight dimensional tolerances (down to 0.01mm) create a lot of waste and greatly increase the costs.
Design adjustments and more relaxed tolerances can save a lot of waste, increase the production yield and largely contribute to material cost reduction.
3. Materials and Size
As with the reduction of machining costs, avoiding cutting odd shapes is crucial. Circles cannot be made directly from the furnace. Rectangle sheets are produced and then circles or other odd shapes need to be cut with all the material and energy waste per m2 that come with it.
On the same note the closer we get to the maximum furnace dimensions (in our case it is a bit larger than 40 x 40cm) the more efficient we can be with the price per m2. If you require very odd dimensions a full sheet still has to be produced and cut into size. If you can optimize your stack for something close to the furnace yield (20 x 20cm and 40 x 40cm furnaces) we can give you the best possible price and reduce the environmental impact of material waste and wasted energy.
Finally, panel optimization is key. As an example, a customer recently wanted 25 x 25cm sheets and was surprised by the price point. What we had to explain is that this 25 x 25cm sheet is originally a 40 x 40 that has to be machined and wasted in order to create the requested odd dimension. All this waste bloats the price where we would normally get more than 25% savings from the Bill of Materials.
If we take all of the above into account we can achieve huge cost savings in carbon papers and in extension in electrolyzer assemblies.
But it is not just the Bill of materials. Renewable energy sources are popular due to environmental concerns. If we do not take the energy, emissions, and waste required to make carbon papers into account then we might end up with the same carbon footprint as with traditional energy sources.
How can we further reduce the electrolyzer cost?
By reducing the cost of Carbon papers we are already in a good direction to reduce the total cost of our electrolyzer. But to maximize the performance there are four additional focus areas:
1. Increase active area. A larger active area decreases the cost per kg of H2 produced. Custom LINQCELL™ plates can be supplied up to 40 x 40cm. Rollable, non woven sheets for thin carbon papers are also available per m2.
2. Higher pressure PEMs. These eliminate a compression step, allowing customers to buy less expensive compressors. LINQCELL™ Carbon papers are highly compressible with varying compression % depending on their initial thickness and grade.
3. Reduce material cost. Sintered Titanium is expensive and the cost is linear with size. LINQCELL carbon paper is 2–3 times less expensive and with optimized ordering, as discussed in the previous section it can be even less than that.
4. Increase useful life. Longer life cycles increase the value of the PEM. Yearly service checks reveal that LINQCELL™ sheets are still intact while membranes need to be replaced.
CAPLINQ manufactures cost-effective LINQCELL Carbon papers with high compressibility and good electrical properties that can be used for fuel cells and electrolyzers. The thicknesses range from 180um up to 3mm thick carbon papers and we can do custom designs and dimensions (with all the cost factors mentioned in this article)
You can find our current portfolio in our graphitized carbon papers category. Membrane electrode assembly manufacturers will also be interested in ion exchange membranes. Anion exchange membranes can operate without the use of precious metals such as platinum and iridium, making them way more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Contact us with your design limitations and unicorn properties to see how we can help you move forwards toward a more efficient and sustainable future.