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New production technology for compact universal hydrogen tanks

New production technology for compact universal hydrogen tanks


BBG has recently developed a mold concept that allows compact, modular hydrogen tanks made of CFRP to be manufactured in series quickly and reproducibly. The tanks can be easily adapted to various car models and thus be installed in different fuel cell vehicles.

modular Wasserstofftank
Modular hydrogen tanks integrated in the floor assembly

So far, large cylindrical hydrogen storage tanks have been used commonly; however, they require a great deal of space. More compact tanks, which can be produced at low cost, therefore play an important role in the development of fuel cell vehicles. The research project Bryson, in which TU Dresden (Dresden Technical University), Hochschule München (Munich University) and Leichtbauzentrum Sachsen (Lightweight Construction Center Saxony) participate in addition to BMW, is looking for solutions to this problem.

Simple technology and low investment cost
BBG has developed a simple process: CFRP tank modules can be manufactured autonomously through the use of the self-closing molds developed and made by this company. This results in low investment cost since the process does not require a press or further production equipment, such as autoclaves for curing.

Self-closing HP-RTM mold suffices for series production
During the production process, cylindrical hollow bodies, i.e. the inner shells of the cylinders, which are also referred to "liners", are first overbraided with carbon fiber. Then the blanks thus prepared are inserted into the two-part mold. Up to 15 cylinders with a diameter of 50 mm and more can be produced simultaneously per operation.

A low-viscosity, resin-based mixture is then injected into the heated mold under a high level of pressure. This mixture penetrates the carbon-fiber braid, enclosing the individual fibers evenly and without defects in the process. After curing in the mold, the modular CFRP cylinders can be removed and connected to form a tank.

Compact tanks, range similar to those of internal-combustion engines
Since tanks are assembled from individual CFRP cylinder modules, they can be tailored precisely to the installation space available in a vehicle. The modules can be integrated, for example, in the floor assembly to save space. Such a tank filled with 700 bar internal pressure facilitates a range that is similar to those offered by internal-combustion engines for hydrogen-powered passenger and commercial vehicles.

Efficient and reliable production of hydrogen tank
The mold concept for modular hydrogen tanks is based on BBG comprehensive expertise in the high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) process, as the company has developed and manufactured molds for this process for many years. In 2019, BBG presented a mold for the production of hydrogen tanks at the JEC World Composite trade show.

Gerhard Hörtrich, BBG project manager, likes to refer to its large competence in tool and mold making: "Since the high pressure applied to hydrogen tanks requires a great deal of component stability, we attach particular importance to maximum precision in the design and production of HP-RTM molds. For the production of the hydrogen tanks to be as efficient as possible at the same time, we have developed and integrated a reliable sealing system, among other things. This system ensures that virtually no manual reworking is required after the resin mixture is injected", says Hörtrich.

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