Spectracarb CAPLINQ LINQCELL a history

The history of CAPLINQ, Spectracarb and LINQCELL

Since the term “Spectracarb” continues to bring many customers to CAPLINQ’s website, we are often asked if CAPLINQ manufactures Spectracarb and what is the relationship between Spectracarb and CAPLINQ.  This section is meant to answer that question in more detail while still preserving a lot of the history and content that was created for Engineered Fibers Technology (EFT) and GinerELX at the time.

1991 to 2005: Spectracarb the very early days

In the early days of Spectracarb, from 1991 to 2005, the company established itself as a leading producer of GDL products for commercial applications. They were also a leader in the development of new GDL materials, and had several contracts with the Department of Energy. Additionally, the company had significant support from the automotive and industrial sectors.

2005 to 2012: Spectracarb the early days

From 2005 to 2012, Spectracarb was acquired by Engineered Fibers Technology (EFT), a company owned by Robert Evans who continued to grow the company through their focus on engineered materials research, wet-laid paper development, and specialty short-cut fiber investigations. Under EFT’s leadership, Spectracarb continued to be a major player in the GDL industry and made significant advancements in its products and processes.

Spectracarb caplinq linqcell history 1991 to 2012

Though the company had earned a name for itself as a pioneer in the manufacture of Graphitized Carbon Paper and Panels for use as Gas Diffusion Layers in Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers, sales remained low as the market was still in its infancy.

2013 – 2018: Spectracarb partnership with CAPLINQ begins

In October 2013, Robert Evans of EFT had a meeting with Christopher Perabo, the Business Development Director of CAPLINQ. During the meeting, Perabo shared that his company, CAPLINQ, was in the process of developing a series of products and materials that would support the burgeoning Renewable Energy market. Recognizing the potential of Spectracarb as a unique and innovative product, Perabo shared that it could be used as a gas diffusion layer in fuel cells, electrolyzers, batteries, humidifiers, and a variety of other electrochemical devices. Together, Evans and Perabo agreed that there was a significant opportunity to develop this market and signed a definitive agreement to collaborate and work together to develop, sell and support Spectracarb as a gas diffusion layer in various applications. This partnership marked a significant step forward for both companies in the ever-expanding renewable energy market.

From 2013 to 2018, CAPLINQ and EFT formed a close partnership to develop cutting-edge graphitized carbon products for manufacturers of electrolyzers and fuel cells globally. Annually, the companies jointly participated in the Hannover Messe trade show, where they met with both current and prospective clients and showcased the newest advancements in the porous graphite paper/panel industry.

Spectracarb owner Robert Evans and CAPLINQ Business Development Director Christopher Perabo at Hannover Messe
Robert Evans of EFT and Christopher Perabo of CAPLINQ at Hannover Messe

Spectracarb Products and Nomenclature

Though many other products and variations were developed with customers over the years, the following table covers the most popular Spectracarb products that were developed.

Spectracarb 2050A properties (Discontinued Q4 2021)
Product Thickness inches/mm Density Required Loading for 12.5% ± 0.5% Strain Through-Plane Resistivity Standard
Spectracarb 0850 .0075″ ±.001″
0.19 ±0.02mm
0.5 g/cm³ ± 0.075 100 lbf/in² ± 50 100 mOhm-cm @175 lbf/in² 16 x 16″
Spectracarb 1050 .011″ ±.001″
0.28 ±0.02mm
0.5 g/cm³ ± 0.075 100 lbf/in² ± 50 100 mOhm-cm @175 lbf/in² 16 x 16″
Spectracarb 1550 .0145″ ±.001″
0.37 ±0.02 mm
0.5 g/cm³ ± 0.075 100 lbf/in² ± 50 100 mOhm-cm @175 lbf/in² 16 x 16″
Spectracarb 6060 .06″ ±.005″
1.5 ±0.12mm
 0.6 g/cm³ ± 0.075  300 lbf/in² ± 100 100 mOhm-cm @175 lbf/in² 22 x 22″
Spectracarb 7090D .064″ ±.003″
1.6 ±0.07mm
 0.775 g/cm³ ± 0.075  400 lbf/in² ± 150 100 mOhm-cm @175 lbf/in² 22 x 22″
Spectracarb 7090XT .084″ ±.003″
2.1 ±0.07mm
 0.775 g/cm³ ± 0.075  400 lbf/in² ± 150 100 mOhm-cm @175 lbf/in² 22 x 22″

Legacy Spectracarb product codes

  • 2050 HF: Other special grades include “2050 HF” with higher mean pore size and increased permeability.
  • 2050 HT: Spectracarb GDL can also be manufactured in the density and thickness ranges shown above, but using modified processing to achieve higher electrical conductivity and improved corrosion resistance with our ”2050 HT” Series for use in PAFC and other special products.
  • 2050 L: Spectracarb GDL thin papers and thicker panels can also be provided on special order in a “2050 L” grade which is carbonized at a lower maximum temperature to provide a lower-cost product for humidifiers and other special products.
  • 2050 P: Both papers and panels can also be provided on special order in our “2050 P Series” where additional purification can be conducted to provide trace elements
  • 2050 WP: Wet proofed grades incorporating a microporous hydrophobic layer of any of the Spectracarb series can be provided through a partner company.
  • Customer Specific Grades: It is also possible to make Hybrid constructions in the Multi-layer constructions. Contact us to discuss any special requirements, or for the design and production of grades for your specific requirement.
  • 2225 Activated fabric is also discontinued.
Spectracarb used as a Gas Diffusion Layer in an electrolyzer cell stack
Spectracarb used as a GDL in an electrolyzer cell stack

CAPLINQ presents at Hannover Messe in 2016

By 2016, CAPLINQ and EFT had developed a strong partnership, with CAPLINQ gaining extensive knowledge of the manufacturing processes and practices of graphitized carbon panels and papers, equivalent to that of EFT. Throughout the years, CAPLINQ also worked closely with leaders in the electrolyzer and fuel cell industry to customize and develop GDL products for specific applications. CAPLINQ was also well-versed in the advantages of the papermaking approach to create specialized GDL products. As a result of their expertise, CAPLINQ was invited to present at the Hannover Messe in 2016 as part of the Hydrogen Fuel Cells Batteries Group Exhibit.

Below is a copy of the presentation that was given by Christopher Perabo as well as a video of the presentation itself during the 2016 Hannover Messe.

CAPLINQ Spectracarb Presentation Hannover 2016

CAPLINQ Spectracarb Powerpoint Hannover 2016

CAPLINQ Spectracarb Video Presentation Hannover 2016

CAPLINQ Spectracarb Video Presentation Hannover 2016

2018 – 2019: Spectracarb acquired by GinerELX

In December 2018 GinerELX acquired the entirety of the Spectracarb GDL business from Engineered Fibers Technology (EFT).  This included the branding, manufacturing, stock, and all of the company’s assets while naturally inheriting their entire customer base. CAPLINQ, having collaborated closely with the EFT team, was aware of the talks with GinerELX before the acquisition and supported EFT’s decision to be acquired by GinerELX. This was based on the expectation that GinerELX, a leading player in the electrolysis hydrogen generator market, would continue to invest in the growth of the Graphitized Carbon Sheet market, as it serves as a crucial component in the assembly, specifically as a gas diffusion layer.

The use of graphitized carbon sheet as a gas diffusion layer is vital for the efficient operation of electrolysis hydrogen generators, and CAPLINQ saw the acquisition as a way for GinerELX to further strengthen its position in the GDL market and continue to drive innovation in this area.

The acquisition of Spectracarb by GinerELX terminated the agreement between CAPLINQ and EFT.  CAPLINQ remained a customer of GinerELX which continued to supply the Spectracarb GDL to CAPLINQ as well as other market partners.

2019: The birth of LINQCELL

Though relationships between CAPLINQ and GinerELX were very positive, as part of their acquisition GinerELX decided not to continue to develop the broader Spectracarb GDL market.  Instead, GinerELX decided to streamline its Spectracarb GDL offering, choosing to focus only on manufacturing the specific range of porous carbon sheets that could be used as GDLs in electrolyzers.  This eliminated all the very thin GDL sheets used as GDLs in Fuel Cells, as well as the other carbon paper, carbon felts, and activated carbon cloths used in electrolyzers and other electrochemical devices.

As a result, from August 2019, GinerELX has adapted or completely removed some of the product lines to reflect the services GinerELX’s clients mostly need.  Among other popular CAPLINQ customer products, this resulted in the 55 x 55cm Spectracarb GDL panels being discontinued.

CAPLINQ responded by investing in the development and manufacture of its own carbon-based product line, LINQCELL, which includes Graphitized Carbon Paper and Panels. This exclusive product line was designed not to compete but rather to complement the Spectracarb electrolyzer GDL offering and continue servicing customers in the fuel cell, electrolyzer, and electrochemical device markets.

Utilizing its market knowledge, product expertise, and manufacturing experience, CAPLINQ was able to develop its own product portfolio, allowing it to continue innovating its product line for existing customers and attract a larger customer base with new products.

2020: Bye Bye Spectracarb. The end of an era.

In September 2019, PlugPower, a leading provider of hydrogen engines and fueling solutions unveiled a 5-year plan to target $1B in revenue by 2024.  Part of their strategy it turned out was to acquire GinerELX outright and set out to do so.  By June 2020, PlugPower had completed its acquisition of GinerELX including the Spectracarb business.

As part of its vertical strategy, PlugPower wanted to both control the entire vertical market as well as limit access of its competitors to it.  This naturally involved cutting off the supply of Spectracarb products to its “frenemies” in the market – those customers that PlugPower needed to drive down the price of GDL sheets but that also competed against PlugPower in similar markets.

As such, it was only logical that PlugPower would stop supplying Spectracarb materials to CAPLINQ or to any other Spectracarb customer.  Since the end of 2020, Spectracarb is only available through channels that acquired Spectracarb manufactured prior to 2021.

2020: Hello LINQCELL | Graphitized Carbon-Based GDLs

In 2018, when EFT announced that GinerELX would take over the Spectracarb business, CAPLINQ’s customers – who relied on this innovative porous graphite paper for their Gas Diffusion Layers – became nervous.  Despite initial assurances from GinerELX, a developer of electrolysis hydrogen generators, that there were no plans to discontinue Spectracarb GDL, many of CAPLINQ’s customers recognized GinerELX as a manufacturer of electrochemical devices – the same market they competed in.

Though there was no way to predict the series of events that would lead to the unavailability of Spectracarb GDL, CAPLINQ’s customers turned to our team of experts to develop alternatives.

In response to GinerELX’s discontinuation of the thin graphite carbon paper used as a gas diffusion layer in fuel cells by a leading supplier, CAPLINQ’s engineers quickly collaborated with the marketing team to develop a suitable replacement. The result was LINQCELL GDP180, a 180-micron porous graphitized carbon paper. This innovative product was the first in the LINQCELL product family and was specifically developed to meet the needs of a fuel cell customer. This product was made available to customers just weeks after the discontinuation was announced, minimizing disruption and ensuring a smooth transition for our valued customers.  This product is a close alternative to the Spectracarb 0850.

Shortly thereafter, GinerELX announced the discontinuation of the Spectracarb GDL panels in 55 x 55 cm sizes.  This product too was a popular product for CAPLINQ customers working on electrolyzer applications.  In response, CAPLINQ developed a thicker carbon panel resulting in the LINQCELL GDL1500, a 1.5mm porous graphitized carbon panel.

These two products formed the basis of CAPLINQ’s LINQCELL Graphitized Carbon Paper portfolio but quickly grew to include several more products as we worked to customize customers’ particular requests concerning thickness, tolerance, porosity, density as well as finishes including PTFE and MPL.

The LINCELL line of products also expanded to include Carbon Cloths and Activated Carbon Fabrics and our existing line of LINQSTAT electrically conductive plastics rounded out our portfolio.

By the end of 2020, when PlugPower had announced the discontinuation of the Spectracarb line of graphitized carbon papers for GDLs, CAPLINQ’s LINQCELL Carbon-based product line was already very well developed and had attracted many new customers.  Any remaining customers of Spectracarb came to CAPLINQ and we were able to offer suitable alternatives.

2020 to present day: The future of LINQCELL

Since 2020, CAPLINQ has invested heavily in the R&D and manufacture of LINQCELL products.  Our new innovations include alternative furnace processes, alternative manufacturing practices, and many other handling processes that make LINQCELL products even more cost-effective than Spectracarb products while improving also the tolerances of the products we provide.

Furthermore, we have also made some significant partnerships to be able to also offer polymer-based solutions including:

This offering allows CAPLINQ to offer a more complete range of materials to electrolyzer and fuel cell manufacturers.  For any questions on any of the products or applications mentioned in this article, please visit our website or feel free to contact us to see how we can help you with solutions to your design challenges.

About Chris Perabo

Chris is an energetic and enthusiastic engineer and entrepreneur. He is always interested in taking highly technical subjects and distilling these to their essence so that even the layman can understand. He loves to get into the technical details of an issue and then understand how it can be useful for specific customers and applications. Chris is currently the Director of Business Development at CAPLINQ.

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