HyPoint, a company developing turbo air-cooled hydrogen-fuel-cell systems for aviation and urban air mobility (earlier post), has entered into a strategic development agreement with BASF New Business GmbH (BNB), a subsidiary of chemical company BASF. The purpose of the partnership is to develop and test a new proton-conductive Celtec membrane with stronger mechanical properties that can operate at higher temperatures and a higher pressure differential, as well as related components and materials.
HyPoint’s core innovation is a new turbo air-cooling architecture. By utilizing compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply, HyPoint reduces overall weight compared with traditional liquid cooling. HyPoint is also using a next-generation high temperature membrane (HTPEM) instead of a low temperature membrane (LTPEM), which increases the efficiency of a cooling system by at least 300%.
The new membrane-electrode assembly (MEA) technology created as a result of the new partnership is expected to improve the performance of the turbo air-cooled high-temperature proton-exchange membrane (HTPEM) fuel cell system significantly.
The membrane’s enhanced mechanical properties together with an advanced MEA design with gas diffusion electrodes will significantly reduce the MEA’s weight while increasing its durability.
The new high-performance fuel cell system is expected to achieve more than 3,000 W/kg, an increase of at least 50% over the current system, and become available to customers in mid-2024.
20kW HyPoint HTPEM single power module
BASF has substantial experience in the manufacture and development of HTPEMs, MEAs, as well as the necessary chemicals and compositions for hydrogen fuel cells. Our collaboration will yield next-generation membranes and membrane-electrode assemblies that result in a significant improvement to our system’s specific power, durability, and operational temperature range. Together, these will satisfy the requirements of the air transportation market, including narrow-body aircraft. It will also enable us to increase our production volume to meet customer demand and continue to expand capacity.
BASF has been manufacturing Celtec membranes and MEAs for more than 15 years. While cyclic operation, various impurities in the gas flow, and changing environmental conditions can stress the materials used in low-temperature (LTPEM) fuel cells, Celtec HTPEM MEAs allow operation at temperatures between 120 °C and 180 °C, enabling a high tolerance to impurities while simplifying temperature and water management.
HyPoint’s current flagship hydrogen fuel cell system offers at least 2,000 W/kg of specific power—more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems—and up to 1,500 Wh/kg of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys. HyPoint’s lightweight, climate-independent, extended-lifespan system increases operational time and utilization rate while decreasing total cost of ownership by as much as 50%.
In 2020, the company won the NASA iTech Initiative in which inventive technologies were ranked based on criteria that included technical viability, benefits to humanity, and commercialization potential. The company was founded in Silicon Valley and is backed by leading venture capital firms and individual investors.