Recycling fuel cells

Low temperature fuel cells like PEMFC (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell), DMFC (Direct Methanol Fuel Cell) or PAFC (Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell) contain significant amounts of platinum, required as catalyst for the conversion of reactive gases into electric power. Although wider market penetration of fuel cells has not yet taken place, timely development of efficient and environmentally sound recycling processes is important. Even today, precious metal production residues from various stages of the supply chain or prototypes already need to be recycled.

The specific challenge in recycling fuel cells and their components is the high fluoropolymer content of roughly 50 wt.% of the Membrane-Electrode Assembly (MEA), the core of the fuel cell. Because of fluorine and hydrogen fluoride (HF) gas emissions, this puts a heavy burden on conventional treatment processes using incineration and/or smelting equipment,. HF is a toxic and highly corrosive gas.

Umicore has developed specific refining processes that can cope with these challenges, highly efficient in precious metals recovery but without any threat to the environment. Here, Umicore benefits  from its experience as one of the leading manufacturers of fuel cell MEAs as well as from the state of the art refining installations for electronic scrap at its Hoboken plant. During the "fc-2004 Conference" in Stuttgart in September 2004, Umicore received the "f-cell Special Award" for its innovative recycling concept.

If you are looking for an optimal recycling solution for your fuel cell materials please send a mail: preciousmetals@umicore.com