Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Fuel cell breakthrough
Ecogeek reports :
Acumentrics manufactures 5000-watt solid oxide fuel cell systems (SOFC) for power applications. They are also developing combined-heat-and-power units (which are like boilers that produce electricity) for the home market. In 2000 they acquired a novel fuel cell technology. Since then, they have increased the output of a single fuel cell tube from 1 watt to 60 watts. Today they have over 30 units working in the field, including ones that power visitor’s centers at Exit Glacier National Park in Alaska, and Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio.
One of their key innovations was making ceramic fuel cell technology shatter resistant. It is shatter resistant because of its shape -- it is a tube, not a thin sheet as most others have used --with a special composition of layers that prevents them from flaking off. Solid oxide fuel cells must handle temperature swings from 20 to 800ºC. Many other solid oxide fuel cells crack when they are cycled on and off, because of thermal shock.
But what really makes Acumentrics different is that they aren't waiting around for the mythical hydrogen economy. The fuel cells run on natural gas, propane, ethanol, diesel, biogas, and biodiesel. While using non-hydrogen fuel means that the cell will produce CO2, Acumentrics fuel cells consume half as much fuel as a comparable small-engine generator, per kW. So they produce the same amount of electricity, while consuming half as much fuel, and producing half as much CO2.