Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Next Generation Fuel Cell Technology Development & Education(ST9380-1)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


New York State has a growing industrial base in the fuel cell and alternative energy fields. This growth can be enhanced and fostered by partnering companies with R&D needs to universities that are educating students in advanced technology, and training them to realize how to turn this knowledge into commercial products. A group of faculty members at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has received a $3.2M NSF grant for a five-year Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program; RPI has added another $1.6M to the program. The research theme addresses interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial activities related to fuel cell manufacturing, materials development, and modeling for design and manufacturing. The initial research focus is on proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). The impact and success of the NSF program will be greatly enhanced by a complementary program that focuses on needs of NYS companies.

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Project Description

RPI shall partner NYS companies within the fuel cell and alternative energy industry with RPI graduate students for research and training. Over a period of five years, the company-student partnership shall complete five projects focusing on the commercialization of fuel cells: • Design, develop, and evaluate an ultrasonic welding system, to lower the manufacturing costs for fuel cells • Test PBI membrane mechanical properties • Develop and refine protocols for high temperature membranes for stationary power. • Develop and evaluate robotic assembly of fuel cell stacks to decrease manufacturing costs • Integrate Control of a Fuel Cell System that will improve both short and long term responses by centralizing control of the individual components of a fuel cell.


Job creation and growth of NYS companies are dependent on development of strong, innovative products and well-educated technical leaders knowledgeable about the latest technologies, research methods, and entrepreneurial necessities. Through the partnership of the NSF IGERT, NYSERDA, NYS companies, university faculty, and talented students, RPI’s program would greatly enhance economic development in New York State. NYSERDA funds would be significantly leveraged and would be used to fully address NYSERDA’s mission to improve technology and foster economic growth in the emerging fuel cell industry.

Project Results

Eight graduate students, nine undergraduates, and one postdoctoral research associate were involved in various aspects of the research (experimentation and modeling) and had the opportunity to talk and work with engineers and researchers from industry to help advance the research, as well as to see how their research could help solve problems on current products and prevent problems with future products. Students interacted with researchers at NYS companies such as Plug Power, H2 Pump, and Progressive Machine and Design, as well as BASF Fuel Cell (both NJ and Germany), which has joint programs with these New York State companies. Lessons learned from individual projects: • Demonstrated the ability to create high strength welds between Membrane-Electrode Assembly (MEA) electrodes and sub-gaskets. A reduction in the weld process cycle time of more than 90% was demonstrated. • Demonstrated the technical feasibility of creating a good electro-chemical seal between MEA electrodes and membrane without a loss in electro-chemical performance and an order of magnitude reduction in pressing cycle time, along with a major reduction in energy consumption for the pressing process. • Leveraged this work into a successful proposal to the US Department of Energy entitled, Adaptive Process Controls and Ultrasonics for High Temperature PEM Fuel Cell MEA Manufacture valued at $2.5M over the 3.5 years of the contract. • RPI reported the first liquid permeability measurements of GDLs that


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Research Adm & Finance, 4th Fl West Hall 110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180

Principle Investigator

Michael Jensen

Universities Involved

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Project Type:

Research Study

Technologies Types:

Energy Power Supply
Fuel Cell

NYSERDA Contact Information

John Love


R&D - Energy Mkts & Pwr Del

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST9380-1

Last Updated: 1/13/2014