Fuel Cells Create US$1 Billion Demand for Materials

Despite the sluggish economy and pessimism about high technology sectors, raw material companies and component manufacturers are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel cell development, according to a recent study by Principia Partners.

Exton, Pennsylvania – October 29, 2002 [SolarAccess.com] Principia Partners has completed an extensive study of the materials requirements in fuel cells. The report, entitled Materials Opportunities in Fuel Cell Technologies – 2002 and Beyond, predicts that the market for fuel cells could reach US$20 billion by 2010, creating an estimated demand for specialty materials of US$1.1 billion in that year. Principia’s new study forecasts the market potential for each of the various fuel cell technologies in ground transportation, stationary power and portable electronic applications and the corresponding requirement for specialty materials. The study is a resource to assist business managers who are already active or considering possible entry into this high-growth business. The forecast for any of these fuel cell technologies is highly speculative, but that has not deterred all of the major plastics producers, ceramics companies, specialty metals suppliers and carbon products producers from investing heavily in this technology, said Principia. An average Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack could contain up to 100 pounds of plastics in bipolar and end plates, creating significant opportunities for material suppliers, said Principia. Consequently all of the major specialty plastics suppliers including DuPont, Dow, Honeywell, Ticona and DSM have extensive fuel cell development programs. Specialty ceramics and carbon fiber/fabric/powder producers also face excellent growth opportunities. That is why Ballard Systems, a PEM fuel cell manufacturer, acquired Textron’s specialty carbon products business. Production of fuel cells is projected to grow at rates exceeding 40 percent per year over the next decade. Applications for fuel cells include any device that currently uses electricity (either from batteries or the electric grid) or an internal combustion engine for power. End uses range from automobiles and heavy trucks to complete homes and portable electronics like cell phones and laptops.
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