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Fuel Cells Expected to Power Growth for the Materials Industry

07 December 2001

Materials suppliers are positioning themselves early to gain a competitive edge in the rapidly growing development of fuel cell technology.

The market for fuel cells will reach nearly $3 billion by 2005 with a dramatic increase projected by 2010. Interest in this market among materials suppliers has intensified as this industry promises to be the next dramatic growth platform for materials usage.

Use of thermosets, thermoplastics, elastomers, nanofibers, and other materials such as carbon black, graphite/carbon fiber, nickel, lithium, and platinum are of particular interest to fuel cell developers as they provide such key properties as high conductivity, corrosion resistance, thermal stability, low creep, dimensional stability, and flame retardancy. The best performing materials and fabrication technologies are under development and evaluation by many industry players. End uses targeted for fuel cell development include automotive, portable power, home power generation, community power generation, as well as other transportation and stationary power supply sources.

""Many of the major materials companies and fabricators are seeking to serve this market segment, and require a greater understanding about the technical requirements among the fuel cell developers and such end users as automotive and stationary power system companies,"" according to Jim Morton, a principal at Principia Partners. ""In particular, fuel cells represent a major opportunity for engineering thermoplastics and high temperature polymers, leveraging the design versatility, parts consolidation, and system cost reduction that has enabled plastics to replace metal over the years. The opportunity for winning materials is enormous, in fuel stack components including bipolar plates, membranes, gas diffusion layers, end plates, and seals. Other peripheral components such as fuel tanks, heat exchangers, water filters, compressors, fuel pumps, and evaporators also offer new applications for a range of materials beyond metal.""

The driving forces behind the market opportunity for materials in fuel cells is the subject of a new report titled Material Opportunities in Fuel Cell Technology - 2002 and Beyond. In addition to material opportunities in fuel cell stacks, the report will focus on all components in peripheral systems for both automotive, stationary, and portable power uses. The study will be available from Principia Partners in April 2002.






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