Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) are considered to be one of the most promising sources of clean electrical energy for the near future. PEMFC are electrochemical generators that produce direct electrical current from a gaseous fuel (typically hydrogen, pure or in admixture) and a gaseous oxidant, normally consisting of oxygen or air.
In some applications (such as automotive), fuel cells are operated in a discontinuous fashion depending on the immediate power demand. Since PEMFC are known for their very quick start-up and their remarkable ability to follow the requirements of steeply variable power demand, they are the most promising candidate for operating in this field. However, in conditions of zero or near-zero power demand. Perfluorocarbon materials are often unstable, especially over long periods. Also, for this reason, alternative membranes (ex.those based on polybenzimidazole, polyether ketones, or polysulfones) have been developed for fuel cell applications. None of these materials have proven suitable for being employed as a proton-conducting material for the electrode interface and perfluorocarbon materials such as the aforementioned “Liquid Nafion” are always used.
Direct metallization of gas diffusion media was attempted with several techniques in the past, with no major success.
Technology Overview
In this invention, the gas diffusion electrode consists of a gas diffusion medium, free of ionomeric components, provided with a noble metal coating using a dual IBAD (Ion beam assisted deposition). A gas diffusion medium was selected and the gas diffusion layer has improved tensile properties and surface roughness perfectly suiting the subsequent superficial metal deposition. Ion bombardment controls film properties in the IBAD process, imparting substantial energy to the coating and the coating/substrate interface. This achieves the benefits of substrate heating (which generally provides a denser, more uniform film) without significantly heating the underlying gas-diffusion material which might degrade its bulk properties. 
The elimination of this component is beneficial from a cost, reliability and overall chemical stability perspective. 
- Catalytic effectiveness of the deposited noble metal coating is very high
- It causes no damage to the underlying substrate and with excellent electrochemical characteristics
- High performing electrode
- Can be useful for other types of fuel cells such as DMFC (direct methanol fuel cells) or for other electrochemical applications, such as membrane electrolysis processes.
- Licensing 
- Partnering
- Research collaboration
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Andrea Gulla
Robert Allen
Emory DeCastro
Enrco Ramunni