Materials for Proton Exchange Membranes and Membrane Electrode Assemblies for PEM Fuel Cells

Published - May 2006| Analyst - Anna Welch Crull| Code - FCB035B
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Report Highlights

  • The components for PEM fuel cells market in North America is expected to rise at an average annual growth rate of 25.1% to $929 million in 2011.
  • The membrane for PEM fuel cells market is estimated at $334 million in 2011.
  • By 2011, it is expected that the functionalized hydrocarbons will be over 36% of the value of membranes for PEM fuel cells.
  • The bipolar plates, the gaseous diffusion layers and the catalyst ink market is estimated to reach $595 million in 2011, with average annual growth estimated at 24.7%.


Fuel cells are viewed as potential candidates for auxiliary power, mobile power, stationary distributed, or central power for the global market as well as the power source for the transportation industry. Advances in the technology are made, but sometimes these advances reveal even more challenges to be met. Slowly there is the realization that total dependency on hydrocarbon fuels is not a viable economic option. PEM fuel cells have a part in securing energy security for the country, improving the environment, greatly reducing urban pollution, and creating jobs in manufacturing as the technology advances.

This study analyzes components of the PEM fuel cell, a technology offering the promise of greatly reduced environmental impact and excellent - fuel efficiency. Hydrogen feed fuel cells are based on the electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. This electrochemical process does not pollute the environment with hydrocarbons, particulates or any sulfur or nitrogen oxides. The study identifies the opportunities and technological requirements of the proton exchange membrane fuel cell and the MEA and the bipolar plates for the PEM fuel cell. When several units of the membrane electrode assembly are capped off with a bipolar plate and properly assembled, the arrangement is referred to as a stack.

Questions to be answered include determining when the PEM fuel cell will become a reality across the broad spectrum of all its potential commercial applications, and what types of membranes are needed to make this possible. There will eventually be a consolidation of the industry, but it is not yet clear when this will take place. The pace and path of various proton exchange membranes in development will impact the development of other types of fuel cells, and become a key factor in the maturation of the industry as a whole. The commercialization of fuel cells will create demand for new products and services from many diverse industries, which will in turn likely create a positive impact on the U.S. and, eventually, the global, economy.


This report:

  • Focuses on the electrolytes of polymer membranes; the heart of the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell.
  • Examines the advancing technology of these membranes, the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) and the bipolar plates.
  • Reviews the companies involved in these developments, the current and projected incentives, and the projected markets for such technologies.
  • Identifies the applications of the PEM fuel cell as a power source for transportation, stationary distributive power, and small-scale applications such as portable electronic devices.
  • Identifies how researchers are solving the search for better membranes that have greater tolerances to poisoning, greater durability, and lower costs.
  • Underlines the fact that commercialization of fuel cells is not solely influenced by engineers and scientists working on stacks and reformers, but how the major cost issue of the catalyst component is addressed.


An in-depth analysis of technical and business literature and published dissertations, a review of the history of the technologies involved, interviews with industry experts, company representatives, federal government researchers, and university scientists provide an assessment of the outlook for the next generation of PEMs and MEAs. Other information sources include product literature from suppliers, scientific references, conferences, patent searches, and BCC Research's monthly newsletters Fuel Cell Technology News, Battery and EV Technology News, and Membrane & Separation Technology News.

The report makes projections for market sectors in terms of 2006 constant dollars representing real growth. Historical values are presented for the given year. The market analyzed is for the United States, but attention is given to the global aspects of the membrane, the electrode assembly, and PEM fuel cell market.


Anna Welch Crull, trained as a chemist and long-time private consultant, is experienced in electrochemistry, polymers, membrane materials, and advanced separations. She has worked with the company that is now BCC Research for 30 years and has authored 101 technical/marketing reports, helped establish 10 technical newsletters, and assisted in numerous special consulting studies for more than 40 corporations and U.S./foreign governments. One of her earliest studies for BCC was on membrane materials for separations. Her specialty is market evaluations and the commercialization of new technology.

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Published - Sep-2003| Analyst - Anna Welch Crull| Code - FCB035A

Report Highlights

  • The current U.S. market for components that make up a fuel cell stack stands at $149 million. This will increase at an impressive 26% average annual growth rate (AAGR) to reach $475 million in 2008.
  • Membranes for PEM fuel cells represent 33% of the market, but only a small fraction, 3%, of the overall U.S. membrane market.
  • Rising at an AAGR of 25.6%, the membrane segment of the PEM fuel cell market is expected to reach $313 million in 2008.
  • Components for the remainder of the fuel cell stack will rise from $100 million in 2003 to $313 million in 2008.
  • Bipolar plates represent about 22% of the total value of stack components.


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