BASF Case study 

“We regularly have BASF scientists in our laboratories,working and talking with our students. Our students realize that their work is relevant and an important part of the core breakthrough in high temperature polymer membrane fuel cells.”

In partnership with BASF, the Benicewicz Group developed the core polymer membrane technology for the lightweight fuel cells now being used by soldiers overseas. These fuel cells operate on a hydrogen mixture produced from reformed methanol that can be simply re-fueled by “hot-swapping” the methanol fuel cartridge. The PBI membrane technology operates at high temperatures (> 150 ˚C), allows for smaller and lighter power sources, and provides robust operation with a high tolerance to fuel impurities.

On a typical three-day mission in the field, soldiers carry more than twenty pounds of batteries to power their computing, communications,and sensing devices. Some units have designated individual soldiers solely to carry the heavy loads of batteries for the rest of the unit. The U.S. Military needs a light-weight, high power alternative to the conventional battery power solution.

Today, BASF manufactures and sells the PBI-based MEA to companies like UltraCell, who use it to make devices like the lightweight fuel cell device described above. This one application of our technology is also being integrated into many other fuel cell devices for commercial and military applications. Our students continue to develop and expand the core polymer membrane technology for improved and alternate fuel cell devices via new polymer synthesis, membrane casting, and fuel cell testing and evaluation.