Resource recovery specialist Axion Consulting has helped devise a new recycling process to recover high-value materials from waste fuel cells.
The collaborative project between Axion, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells Ltd. and Technical Fibre Products (TFP) has been funded by the United Kingdom's technology strategy board Innovate UK to establish the technical and economic feasibility of recovery and re-use of high value materials from fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies, and ultimately to establish the potential for a new UK-based global recycling business.
Having proven the initial process, Axxion said in a news release that further research is underway on evaluating the viability for commercial operation and developing a take-back system for end-of-life fuel cells — such as those from forklift trucks, mobile phone masts, electric vehicles and in small portable power packs for laptops and other products. Automakers also are increasingly looking at fuel cells.
The cells use a variety of plastics, including a polymer film at the center of each cell.
The project features include TFP investigating the recovery and re-use of carbon fiber.
Axion consulting director Roger Morton said: “It offers exciting potential using really elegant chemistry. The ability to recycle fuel cells is important as they will be powering the vehicles and technology of the future, which needs to be cost-effective if they are to be acceptable to both consumers and manufacturers.
“To make fuel cells more cost-effective, we need to reduce their whole-life cost and maximize the value of the resources they contain, such as platinum, high-value polymers and carbon fiber. Recycling them would also improve resource-efficiency and security of supply for these expensive and critical materials.”