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Describing Reactions in a Fuel Cell on the Nanoscale

Platinum Coating

Picture: Sergei Kalinin

Visualisation of platinum coating in fuel cells. The red areas show high ion transfer activity, the turquoise-green elevations represent the nanoparticles. The picture shows that ion transfer is not uniform all over the coating.

For the first time, physical chemistry reactions in a fuel cell can now be observed and described in detail on the nano­scale. This innovation is due to a new microscopy technique devised by an international research team involving Heidelberg mathe­matician Dr. Francesco Ciucci and scientists from the United States and Ukraine. The new technique means that oxygen reduction, which is significant for the energy generated in a fuel cell, can now be represented at a resolution of one millionth of a millimetre. The research findings will be used to develop more efficient and powerful hydrogen fuel cells.

Fuel cells convert the energy in a fuel like hydrogen into electric energy. A hydrogen fuel cell consists of two electrodes facing one another and separated by an ion conductor. Electric energy is gained via transfer of ions between the two electrodes. The oxygen in the air reacts with the hydrogen brought in from outside. In this process of oxygen reduction, a catalyst – frequently the rare and expensive platinum – plays an essential role as reaction accelerator. In all this, says Francesco Ciucci, the oxygen reduction process is the limiting factor in connection with the longevity and efficiency of fuel cells.

“To optimise ion transfer between the electrodes, a number of fundamental questions have to be answered,” says the mathematician. “How and where exactly does oxygen reduction occur and how does platinum function as a catalyst? Up to now we have had to do without a suitable instrument for investigating the reaction dynamics involved.” Francesco Ciucci’s research has been funded by a grant from Heidelberg University’s Graduate School of Mathematical and Computational Methods for the Sciences. In its course, and in conjunction with Dr. Amit Kumar at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA and Dr. Anna Morozovska of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Ciucci has developed a new microscopy technique that can monitor ion transfer on the nanoscale. The technique is called “Electrochemical Strain Microscopy” (ESM).

The ESM technique is based on a mathematical model, a so-called partial differential equation, that describes the movement of oxygen in various materials. By way of this mathematical description, the measurement data from “Electrochemical Strain Microscopy” could be visualised on the computer screen. “What we have found out from this,” says Dr. Ciucci, “is that the catalyst layer of 50-nanometre platinum particles does not allow an equal degree of ion transfer at all points.” The innovative microscopy technique ESM is not restricted to the optimisation of fuel cells. Dr. Ciucci points out that it is suitable for investigating chemical processes on all surfaces where materials interact via ion transfer.

The research findings have been published in the “Nature Chemistry” journal.

Original publication
A. Kumar, F. Ciucci, A.N. Morozovska, S.V. Kalinin and S. Jesse: Measuring oxygen reduction/evolution reactions on the nanoscale. Nature Chemistry 3, 707-713 (2011), doi:10.1038/nchem.1112

December 28, 2011 - 3:30 PM No Comments

FCHEA’s Efforts Rescue $31 Million for DoE Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Programs

Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Conference Report
Funds Our Programs in EERE at $104 Million and FE at $25 Million,
Both Above the President’s Budget Request
Crucial Report Language Retained
NETL Directed to Include Fuel Cells in Coal Research and Development
December 16, 2011—The House Appropriations Committee today released the details of H.R. 3671, the Combined Appropriations Act, 2012. This omnibus appropriations bill funds the federal government through September 30, 2012, including the Department of Energy (DoE).
Although yet to be voted on in the House and Senate, H.R. 3671 represents the outcome of negotiations between the two chambers, and it is virtually assured of passage, and President Obama’s signature, without further modification sometime in the next few days.
The bill appropriates $104 million to fuel cell and hydrogen energy programs within the DoE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and $25 million to the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance, the solid oxide fuel cell program within DoE’s Office of Fossil Energy. These figures represent an increase of $6 million and $25 million, respectively, over President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request. The bill is available here, and is also available here. The programmatic recommendations are available on pages 41 (a) and (b) in the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Committee which is available here and is also available here.
Equally important is the bill’s preservation of highly favorable report language in the original House and Senate FY 2012 Energy and Water (E&W) Appropriations bills. The House bill recommended “not less than $25 million to continue the Department’s research, development, and demonstration of solid oxide fuel cell systems, which have the potential to substantially increase the efficiency of clean coal power generation systems, to create new opportunities for the efficient use of natural gas, and to contribute significantly to the development of alternative-fuel vehicles.” This language can be found on page 100 of the House Appropriation
Committee’s report on the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, available here, and also available here.
In the Senate FY 2012 E&W Appropriations bill, the report language “recognizes the progress and achievements of the Fuel Cell Technologies program. The program has met or exceeded all benchmarks, and has made significant progress in decreasing costs and increasing efficiency and durability of fuel cell and hydrogen energy systems. Further, the Committee believes fuel cell and hydrogen energy systems for stationary, transportation and other motive, mobile and portable power applications have the potential to enable clean and efficient use of our domestic energy resources. The Committee affirms its support for stable and continued funding for these programs now and in the future. Within the available funds, the Committee recommends funding is provided for Technology Validation focused on passenger vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure applications, hydrogen fuels R&D, and for Market Transformation in early markets,” (emphasis added). This language can be found on page 77 of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s report on the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, available here, and also available here.
H.R. 3671 does not include such report language in its text, but the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Committee instructs that the report language in the House and Senate bills “should be complied with,” and “is approved by the committee of conference.” The Statement is available here and is also available here. The Statement also directs the National Energy Technologies Laboratory (NETL) to include fuel cells within its Coal Research and Development, part of Fossil Energy’s CCS and Power Systems program. Fuel cells had been excluded from CCS and Power Systems in the President’s FY 2012 budget request, as well as the original House and Senate E&W bills.
The funding levels and sections of report language represent hard-fought victories for the FCHEA and its members—the results of more than a year of tireless and dedicated work. They are important signals to the Administration, as we head into the budgeting process for FY 2013, and could be turning points in getting ahead of the curve, so that we are not fighting the same appropriations battles year after year.
Thanks to all who worked so hard to get this done. Please be sure to contact your Senator and Representative, thank them for their work on this bill, and encourage them to support it.

Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Conference Report

Funds Our Programs in EERE at $104 Million and FE at $25 Million,

Both Above the President’s Budget Request

Crucial Report Language Retained

NETL Directed to Include Fuel Cells in Coal Research and Development

The House Appropriations Committee  released the details of H.R. 3671, the Combined Appropriations Act, 2012. This omnibus appropriations bill funds the federal government through September 30, 2012, including the Department of Energy (DoE).

Although yet to be voted on in the House and Senate, H.R. 3671 represents the outcome of negotiations between the two chambers, and it is virtually assured of passage, and President Obama’s signature, without further modification sometime in the next few days.

The bill appropriates $104 million to fuel cell and hydrogen energy programs within the DoE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and $25 million to the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance, the solid oxide fuel cell program within DoE’s Office of Fossil Energy. These figures represent an increase of $6 million and $25 million, respectively, over President Obama’s FY 2012 budget request. The bill is available here, and is also available here. The programmatic recommendations are available on pages 41 (a) and (b) in the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Committee which is available here and is also available here.

Equally important is the bill’s preservation of highly favorable report language in the original House and Senate FY 2012 Energy and Water (E&W) Appropriations bills. The House bill recommended “not less than $25 million to continue the Department’s research, development, and demonstration of solid oxide fuel cell systems, which have the potential to substantially increase the efficiency of clean coal power generation systems, to create new opportunities for the efficient use of natural gas, and to contribute significantly to the development of alternative-fuel vehicles.” This language can be found on page 100 of the House Appropriation

Committee’s report on the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, available here, and also available here.

In the Senate FY 2012 E&W Appropriations bill, the report language “recognizes the progress and achievements of the Fuel Cell Technologies program. The program has met or exceeded all benchmarks, and has made significant progress in decreasing costs and increasing efficiency and durability of fuel cell and hydrogen energy systems. Further, the Committee believes fuel cell and hydrogen energy systems for stationary, transportation and other motive, mobile and portable power applications have the potential to enable clean and efficient use of our domestic energy resources. The Committee affirms its support for stable and continued funding for these programs now and in the future. Within the available funds, the Committee recommends funding is provided for Technology Validation focused on passenger vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure applications, hydrogen fuels R&D, and for Market Transformation in early markets,” (emphasis added). This language can be found on page 77 of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s report on the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, available here, and also available here.

H.R. 3671 does not include such report language in its text, but the Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Committee instructs that the report language in the House and Senate bills “should be complied with,” and “is approved by the committee of conference.” The Statement is available here and is also available here. The Statement also directs the National Energy Technologies Laboratory (NETL) to include fuel cells within its Coal Research and Development, part of Fossil Energy’s CCS and Power Systems program. Fuel cells had been excluded from CCS and Power Systems in the President’s FY 2012 budget request, as well as the original House and Senate E&W bills.

The funding levels and sections of report language represent hard-fought victories for the FCHEA and its members—the results of more than a year of tireless and dedicated work. They are important signals to the Administration, as we head into the budgeting process for FY 2013, and could be turning points in getting ahead of the curve, so that we are not fighting the same appropriations battles year after year.

Thanks to all who worked so hard to get this done. Please be sure to contact your Senator and Representative, thank them for their work on this bill, and encourage them to support it.

December 28, 2011 - 9:37 AM No Comments

Ballard Signs LOI To Power 25 Clean Energy Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses in Sao Paulo, Brazil

VANCOUVER-- Ballard Power Systems has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with The City of Sao Paulo, Brazil for 25 FCvelocityTM-HD6 fuel cell modules to power 25 buses in that city. Delivery of the modules is planned for 2012. A final agreement with The City of Sao Paulo is now in negotiation.

Silvano Pozzi, Ballard’s Director – Brazil Market Development said, “We are very pleased with The City of Sao Paulo’s intention to deploy an initial fleet of 25 clean energy buses.”

John Sheridan, the Company’s President and CEO added, “In combination with our recently announced supply agreement for 21 modules to power buses in Europe, this points to significant progress toward commercialization of zero-emission fuel cell buses in 2012.”

Brazil’s National Plan on Climate Change is a set of inter-ministerial programs designed to cut emissions in the transportation, forestry, industrial and energy sectors. Under the plan the Brazilian government has committed to significant use of zero-emission transit technology. Initiatives will be implemented during the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games being held in that country, and beyond.

Sao Paulo is Brazil’s largest city, generating significant emissions of particulate matter together with 3 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, 85% of which are created by vehicles. As a result, clean energy transportation is a high priority for the city, which has established a goal of reducing fossil fuel use within the bus fleet by at least 10% annually over the next several years.

Ballard’s sixth generation FCvelocityTM-HD6 fuel cell module features a control unit which interfaces with a system controller to make it a “plug-and-play” product for any fuel cell or hybrid fuel cell bus platform. The module also offers significant advances in durability, power density and fuel efficiency compared to earlier generation products.

About Ballard Power Systems
Ballard Power Systems (TSX: BLD) (NASDAQ: BLDP) provides clean energy fuel cell products enabling optimized power systems for a range of applications. Products are based on proprietary esencia™ technology, ensuring incomparable performance, durability and versatility. To learn more about Ballard, please visit www.ballard.com.

December 27, 2011 - 4:10 PM No Comments

Progress of building new Hydrogen Station in Oslo

By April 2012 Oslo will have completed the building of a new hydrogen station to facilitate the refuelling of Oslo’s 5 Fuel Cell Hydrogen Buses.The first stages of building include setting the concrete floor, which was set Monday 28th of November 2011.
Oslo will produce Hydrogen on site with the application of a brand new electrical power transformation station which will transform high voltage power to produce hydrogen.

December 27, 2011 - 7:58 AM No Comments

Management Today: Ultra Electronics is a Most Admired Company

Management Today ranked Ultra Electronics as one of the Most Admired Companies in 2011. The AMI parent company, headquartered in the U.K., made the list’s Top 10.

The publication evaluates companies on a variety of factors, including quality of management, financial soundness, quality of goods, and capacity to innovate. Read more about the news on the Management Today website.

December 27, 2011 - 7:02 AM No Comments

Iron unlocks path to hydrogen fuel

Boddien, A, D Mellmann, F Gärtner, R Jackstell, H Junge, PJ Dyson, G Laurenczy, R Ludwig and M Beller. 2011. Efficient dehydrogenation of formic acid using an iron catalyst. Science 333(6050):1733-1736.

Synopsis by Audrey Moores
Researchers look to nature and use iron – instead of precious metals – to transform formic acid into hydrogen for use as a clean source of energy.

For decades, means of producing hydrogen fuel efficiently and without using traditional fossil fuels have eluded chemists and engineers. Yet some organisms sequester the element to fuel their life processes. Their secret lies in iron-based enzymes.

To mimic a hydrogen-based energy source for people, researchers from Germany and Switzerland successfully proved that iron can be a very efficient agent to generate hydrogen from formic acid. The simple and powerful system may have wide commercial appeal if researchers can determine why the system shuts down after just two-thirds of a day. The group’s results are published in the journal Science.

Hydrogen is a clean source of energy, with water as the sole combustion waste. Yet it provides a great deal of energy considering its low weight. That explains why it is highly attractive as a future source of clean energy. Much research is currently devoted to designing engines that can run on this fuel.

However, hydrogen is currently produced using energy from fossil fuels, which is a major hurdle to its development as a fuel. It can also be generated by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. Again, this reaction requires energy from traditional means, such as fossil fuels, nuclear power or hydroelectric power.

Formic acid is a promising starter material to generate hydrogen, as it is readily available from biomass –  plant or animal material usually collected through agriculture or forestry. Formic acid could also be used to store hydrogen, as it breaks down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and can be made from these same two molecules. Attempts to harness formic acid have so far fallen short because processing it requires high temperature or additives.

The big problem is how to easily, efficiently and cleanly break apart formic acid to liberate the needed hydrogen. The researchers – inspired by organisms that do this naturally – found that switching out the precious metal catalysts used now with a simple compound based on iron and phosphorus can transform formic acid into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. No other by-products are produced.

The researchers combined formic acid, the iron-based compound and propylene carbonate, a green and non-toxic solvent. They tested the reaction in a realistic set up where the reaction was constantly fed with formic acid.

The reaction worked very well at normal temperatures. It was not affected by the presence of common impurities – such as water and air – typically found in formic acid supplies.

Hydrogen production was remarkably stable over 16 hours. After this time, water accumulated and deactivated the system. This difficulty will have to be overcome before the process can be used commercially.

The discovery means that chemists are a step closer to turning formic acid into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This reaction would ideally happen inside the engine of a car fed with formic acid to allow the generated hydrogen to burn and power the car. The process will generate carbon dioxide, but since formic acid comes from biomass, the whole cycle would be carbon neutral.

This system is preliminary and will need to be elaborated upon and streamlined to meet commercialization requirements. But the system is very simple and powerful and may lead to humans using hydrogen as other organisms already do.

Creative Commons License

December 27, 2011 - 6:49 AM No Comments

ThyssenKrupp VDM offers improved high-performance material for fuel cells

ThyssenKrupp VDM, together with the Jülich Research Center, has developed Crofer 22 H, an improved high-performance material for solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). Crofer 22 H was readied for market in a multi-year project with the involvement of other industrial partners. The new material can be used to produce lightweight fuel cell stacks, e.g. for use in vehicles. “A particular emphasis of our work on Crofer 22 H was to develop a commercial-scale production process,” says Dr. Jutta Klöwer, head of research and development at ThyssenKrupp VDM. “As a result, we can now supply a lower-cost alloy with superior properties to steel for use in fuel cell interconnects.” The material is suitable for large-scale energy supply systems, small decentralized household units and automotive applications.

Solid oxide or high-temperature fuel cells deliver clean energy in the form of heat and electricity with a high degree of efficiency and are therefore an innovative energy source for the future. This kind of fuel cell technology generates the required hydrogen-rich gas from fuels such as diesel, gasoline and methanol at temperatures up to 900 degrees. Conditions inside the fuel cells call for special materials: Crofer 22 H was specifically developed for high-temperature fuel cells. It contains between 20 and 24 percent chromium and other alloying elements such as tungsten, niobium, titanium and lanthanum. The new material is characterized by high corrosion resistance at temperatures up to 900 degrees, good electrical conductivity of the oxide layer, and high mechanical strength at operating temperature. It is also readily formable. ThyssenKrupp VDM optimized the properties of Crofer 22 H under the “ZEUS III” research program in collaboration with the Jülich Research Center.

In fuel cells, the high-performance material is used in the so-called interconnects – plates that connect the individual cells into an efficient stack. For this it needs to display numerous characteristics such as electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance and mechanical strength; it must also be readily formable and have no adverse effects on the cell. Crofer 22 H meets all these very specific requirements. A further advantage is its thermal expansion, which matches that of the ceramic materials used in the cell. This prevents mechanical stresses between the two materials that could damage the ceramics. “By manufacturing the material on a commercial scale, we can keep fuel cell production costs down. Ultimately it’s about reducing system costs,” says Dr. Robert Steinberger-Wilckens from the Jülich Research Center. “Crofer 22 H doesn’t need to be melted in a vacuum induction furnace, which significantly reduces production costs,” adds Dr. Jutta Klöwer. In addition to Crofer 22 H, further materials from ThyssenKrupp VDM are used in fuel cells. For example, high-temperature nickel alloys feature in other SOFC parts such as heat exchangers and reformers.

In addition to mobile use as an auxiliary power unit in cars, trucks, aircraft or ships, fuel cells can be used in many stationary applications to supply power to buildings or in large and small combined heat and power plants. They open up a more efficient way of producing heat and electricity for private homes and vehicles. With fossil fuels very expensive, this innovative development is a sustainable, low-cost alternative suitable for use on a widespread basis. Mini power plants are on the rise: They display excellent energy efficiency and deliver heat and electricity with no hazardous emissions – all properties of a successful future technology.

ThyssenKrupp VDM (Werdohl) manufactures high-performance materials, including nickel alloys, special stainless steels and zirconium and titanium mill products. ThyssenKrupp VDM has been supplying sheet, plate, rods, ingots, strip and wire for more than 80 years. Its main customers are in the engineering, energy production, oil and gas, electrical, electronics, automotive and aerospace sectors. ThyssenKrupp VDM (roughly 1,850 employees) has German production sites in Werdohl, Altena, Unna, Siegen and Essen as well as two plants in the USA. In addition, the company has a global sales and distribution network.

December 23, 2011 - 8:37 AM No Comments

Swiss Hydrogen Bus and Refuelling are “CHIC”

Aargua Bus Project

The region of Aargau Switzerland will demonstrate the deployment of 5 Fuel Cell Hydrogen buses in regular public transport operations under the European funded, CHIC project. Hydrogenics Corporation announced on the 25th of November the award to deliver one HySTAT(TM)60 electrolyser, capable to produce 130kg a day of pure hydrogen. It will be part of a complete electrolysis-based fueling station awarded to Carbagas, a fully owned subsidiary of the Air Liquide group. The electrolyser is expected to be delivered to the city of Brugg in the canton of Aargau, Switzerland at the beginning of 2012 for the use of the buses.

The hydrogen fueling station, delivering green hydrogen at 350bar, will be based at the PostAuto bus garage in Brugg and will be used to operate the 5 Citaro FuelCELL buses. PostAuto (www.postauto.ch) is the biggest public bus operator in Switzerland with over 2,000 vehicles in operation.

The Aargau bus project will reduce noise and improve air quality in the canton by reducing harmful emissions from public transport. This fueling station will deliver 100% green hydrogen, thanks to the use of green electricity generated by the local energy utility IBB (hydro-electric, solar, wind and biomass) further demonstrating that a complete carbon free chain using electrolysis has its place in the future energy mix for transport applications.

December 23, 2011 - 7:33 AM No Comments

Modelling can help to improve fuel cell function

In her doctoral dissertation, M. Sc. (Tech.) Suvi Karvonen examines the local and cell level modelling of PEMs, or polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.  Her dissertation, which will be examined at Aalto University, states that the functioning of PEM fuel cells can be substantially improved through a very simple modelling exercise.

According to Karvonen, experimental research in many questions relevant to fuel cells is expensive and slow. Instead of manufacturing a number of cells and experimentally testing their functioning, different variations can be produced by modelling, which is much faster and less expensive. On the other hand, there are aspects that cannot be studied, not even by experimental methods.

vaantyma_paatylevyssa2.jpg

̶ For example, owing to the practical limitations of temperature sensors and current measurements, it is simply not possible to measure current density or temperature everywhere inside the cell, says Karvonen.

Current density fluctuations may affect cell function negatively

The fuel cell modelling produced information on the distribution of cell compression pressure and its impact on cell function locally. The modelling results indicate that among others, transversal electric currents are generated locally in the cell. This phenomenon may have a negative impact on fuel cell function and life span.

According to Karvonen, an irregular current density distribution causes uneven ohmic heating in the cell. As a result the Nafion membrane, or the cell electrolyte, at the core of the cell may dry out and become damaged.

̶ In order for the cell to work, the Nafion membrane must be moist. Heating may dry out the membrane or burn a hole in it. In that case, the cell will leak fuel and oxygen through the hole and perish, or at least start working poorly, explains Karvonen.

A fuel cell for an electric car?

Fuel cells are electrochemical devices producing electricity to which the reactant is fed from outside. The cells can be used to replace batteries, and plenty of research has already been conducted on their suitability for such applications as electric cars. The fuel cell could extend the distance an electric car can travel.

̶ In a battery, all fuel must be contained inside the battery. In order for the car to travel a long distance, the batteries would need to be really large. This would make the car extremely heavy, and the batteries would not necessarily fit in the car. A fuel cell car, on the other hand, could go and fill up every now and then, as it is possible to feed more fuel into it, Karvonen illustrates.

According to Karvonen, however, the current problem is the availability of fuel. The most common fuel used for the cells is hydrogen, which does not occur freely on earth. Storing hydrogen is also difficult.

Suvi Karvonen’s doctoral dissertation ”Modelling approaches to mass transfer and compression effects in polymer electrolyte fuel cells” will be examined at 12 noon on 25 November at the Department of Applied Physics of the School of Science in room K216 at the address Otakaari 4, Espoo.

The dissertation is available online at: http://otalib.aalto.fi/en/collections/e-publications/dissertations/

December 23, 2011 - 6:00 AM No Comments

A Longer Lasting Silent Night with Fuel Cells

With the holidays fast approaching, fuel cells are helping deck the halls and lighting Santa’s way.
For almost a decade, fuel cells have provided reliable, emission-free power to keep Christmas tree and other holiday lights all over the world shining bright, without the worry of tripping on the power cord.

Back in 2002, one of IdaTech’s portable fuel cell systems was the world’s first to power the lights on a holiday tree at the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) Sacramento headquarters. This early demonstration proved so successful that it has become a holiday tradition in California and around the world.

In 2005, the energy efficient LED tree lights for four Christmas trees at the Cal/EPA building were powered by a Freedom Power fuel cell system designed and manufactured by Altergy Systems. In 2006, then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose a 1-kW Altergy Systems’ hydrogen fuel cell to power the lights on the official state Christmas tree at the State Capitol building, the first official state Christmas tree in the U.S. powered by fuel cells. This 55-foot tree had 6,500 lights. Altergy provided a fuel cell for the 2007 and 2008 trees as well. Air Products donated the hydrogen as a gift.

The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London first used a fuel cell to power the lights in 2004, a project sponsored by the BOC Group plc, Johnson Matthey and Plug Power. Other partners in the project included the Greater London Authority, the London Hydrogen Partnership and siGEN. The tree used a 5-kW Plug Power GenCore® 5T to keep it shining 24 hours a day. It was such a success that the partners joined again in 2005. In 2006, the fuel cell powered the crib lights at St Martin-in-the Fields church.

In 2007, the National Zoo in Washington, DC, used a Microcell 1-kW fuel cell system to help power the entry arch to its annual ZooLights holiday lighting display.

In 2008, the trend made its way to the Canary Islands, with a fuel cell lighting up a Christmas tree at the the Plaza de Santa Ana in the Capital, Las Palmas, in Gran Canaria.

And this year, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Christmas tree is being powered by a Trulite Hydrocell 150 W fuel cell. On the other side of the pond in Trafalgar Square, a 75 kW unit donated by UPS Systems is powering the star atop the tree.

Fuel cells could power more than just the lights on the tree or other displays. Other holiday-themed applications that could deliver an emissions-free “Silent Night” include powering:

• Santa’s sleigh (both for propulsion and as an auxiliary power unit to power the electronic devices onboard (GPS, etc.)
• Rudolph’s nose (or a long-lasting sleigh light to give Rudolph the night off!)
• NORAD’s Santa’s tracking devices
• Blinking cell phone tower warning lights that keep Santa safe in the air
• Elves’ power tools
• Macy’s (or other department stores) animatronic window displays
• Menorah lights
• Spotlight on the crèche
• Air pump blower fans for inflatable lawn decorations
• Various gifts from electronics to talking dolls
• Hot chocolate warmer
• Leg lamp (fra-gil-e!)

If you can think of more, visit our blog at www.fuelcellinsider.org and share them! Happy Holidays from Fuel Cells 2000!

December 23, 2011 - 5:27 AM No Comments

Apple investigating fuel-cell-powered MacBooks

Apple could build new notebooks that are even smaller and lighter than current battery-powered devices by switching to fuel cells for power.

The prospect of fuel-cell-powered MacBooks and other devices was raised in a pair of Apple patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider this week. They are entitled “Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” and “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device.”

“Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling,” the filings state. “These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources.”

Apple’s proposed invention notes that the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, has helped to increase consumer awareness of the environmental friendliness of electronic devices. In addition, Apple usually highlights the EPEAT ratings of products it introduces at highly publicized keynote events.

“As a consequence of increased consumer awareness, electronics manufacturers have become very interested in renewable energy sources for their products, and they have been exploring a number of promising renewable energy sources such as hydrogen fuel which is used in hydrogen fuel cells,” both documents state.

Apple then makes a case for using fuel cells to power portable electronic devices, noting that hydrogen and associated fuels could allow such devices to operate “for days or even weeks without refueling.” But the company also notes there are challenges in creating hydrogen fuel cell systems that are portable and cost-effective.

The solution presented by Apple describes a fuel cell system that can both provide power to and receive power from a rechargeable battery found in a device like a MacBook.

Patent 1

“This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system,” one filing reads. “This fuel cell system includes a fuel cell stack which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system.”

“Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” was first filed with the USPTO in August of 2010. It is credited to Bradley L. Spare, Vijay M. Iyer, Jean L. Lee, Gregory L. Tice, Michael D. Hillman and David I. Simon. “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing device” is a continuation-in-part of a patent filed in 2010. It lists Iyer and Spare as its inventors.

Patent 2

Apple’s interest in fuel cell technology is not new, as in October AppleInsider highlighted another pair of patent applications from Apple that described lighter and more efficient hydrogen fuel cells. The company proposed accomplishing this by building multiple fuel cells connected in a parallel configuration by a power bus, along with a voltage-multiplying circuit to increase the voltage of the stack.

December 23, 2011 - 5:00 AM No Comments

New EFOY COMFORT fuel cell wins iF product design award 2012

ifproductdesignaward

Brunnthal/Munich, Germany–SFC Energy AG, technology and market leader in mobile and remote power solutions based on fuel cells, has received the iF product design award 2012 in the Leisure/Lifestyle category for its EFOY COMFORT fuel cell.

For 58 years now the iF product design prize has been awarded to extraordinary design achievements. iF is a worldwide established brand, acting from Hanover, Munich, Taiwan, Korea, and Brazil.  This year, 2,923 companies had entered their products for the iF product design award.

The EFOY COMFORT fuel cell was honored for quality of design, workmanship, choice of materials, degree of innovation, functionality, ergonomics, intuitive use, safety, brand value and branding. EFOY COMFORT which was launched in the early summer of 2011 as an autonomous power source for mobile homes, cabins and sailboats, was developed specifically to meet the requirements of the users in these demanding markets. It has since been met with great interest in these markets.

The user benefits of the new fuel cell generation are an additional performance increase and a further reduced weight, combined with whisper quiet operation thanks to the intelligent utilisation of vibration-absorbing attenuators from the automobile industry, and intuitive, comfortable use.

“We are excited about winning the iF product design award“, says Dr. Peter Podesser, CEO of SFC Energy. “We wanted the EFOY COMFORT to feature not only even more functionality and enable even more independence for our customers, we also concentrated on an attractive design and on an appealing touch. The award, just like the reactions of our customers, confirms that we have achieved this aim.”

Additonal information on the EFOY COMFORT fuel cell at www.efoy-comfort.com.

About SFC Energy AG
SFC Energy AG (www.sfc.com) is a market leader in fuel cell technologies for mobile and off-grid power applications serving the leisure, industrial and defense markets. As one of Germany’s technology pioneers, SFC has won numerous innovation awards. SFC has alliances with leading companies in a wide range of industries. Unlike most other fuel cell manufacturers, who are in the research and development phase or run subsidized demonstration projects, SFC has successfully shipped more than 23,000 fully commercial products to industrial and private end users for more than five years, and has created a convenient fuel cartridge supply infrastructure. SFC is DIN ISO 9001:2000 certified. SFC is based in Brunnthal, Germany, and has a U.S. sales and technical service office in the U.S. SFC Energy AG is listed at the Deutsche Boerse Prime Standard (WKN 756857).

December 22, 2011 - 11:48 AM No Comments

Canadian Fuel Cells Provide Reliable Power in Developing Communities

Jakarta, Indonesia- Canadian fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems and its partner IdaTech are helping to provide reliable cell phone service to hundreds of communities in developing countries such as Indonesia. Many remote communities in what is the world’s fourth most populous country currently depend on an unreliable electricity grid to support their daily telecommunication calls with the outside world. Similarly, urban dwellers are reliant on cell phones in cities where cell phone tower power can go out several times a day.

IdaTech, a backup power fuel cell system manufacturer in Oregon, and its partner Cascadiant, an Indonesian value-added reseller distributor, supply backup power fuel cell systems to more than 300 Indonesian-bound backup power systems and stand alone power units supporting the Indonesian telecommunications industry. Ballard, a fuel cell stack manufacturer, provides stacks that are integrated into these systems. This is an industry working hard to serve nearly 250 million people across a sprawling collection of islands in Southeast Asia.

A developing country with a growing population, often situated in relatively remote island settings and with limited infrastructure, Indonesia faces daunting challenges in providing communications to its population. The country relies heavily on cellular technology for primary delivery of telecommunications services instead of traditional land lines.

Growth in power generation continues to be outpaced by the growth in demand, leading to chronic shortages. Further, earthquakes, windstorms, fires and other natural disasters also have an impact on power grid availability for telecommunications companies. With some 100,000 cell phone towers around the country consuming 228 megawatts of power, the ability to communicate in Indonesia is closely tied to the reliability of base and backup power in the telecommunications network.

IdaTech and Ballard’s solutions work particularly well in developing countries—the IdaTech fuel cell system with Ballard fuel cell stack can handle a variety of fuel sources, from methanol to direct-hydrogen, and provides a host of incredibly positive benefits for the unique challenges in Indonesia.

The IdaTech units can sit on top of a building in downtown Jakarta with a small foot print and no noise, no emissions and almost no maintenance. In contrast, noisy, bulky, heavy and difficult to service diesel generators require ground level, hard-to-find spaces to operate.

In rural areas, diesel generators and their fuel are easy prey for thieves, but with virtually no aftermarket for fuel cell powered backup or stand alone power units, theft is not a real issue.

With downtime meaning instant lost revenue for telecommunications providers, even a few hours out of service for a number of towers can create a significant impact on business for telecommunication service providers. Fuel-cell powered backup systems are a first line of defence against lost revenue.

Another intriguing advantage of fuel cell systems in remote villages is that community elders will tend to turn off the noisy diesel generators providing backup power for cell phone towers at night. Fuel cell-powered backup units make no noise, so they can always be on, providing critical communications for the village and a restful sleep at the same time.

In addition to being light, mobile, efficient, able to operate on a variety of fuel sources with low maintenance requirements, the ultimate advantage of the IdaTech/Ballard solution is environmental – low carbon emissions and less pollutants than diesel and cleaner than lead-acid batteries.

And, since telecommunications towers uses DC, instead of AC, power already, there’s no power conversion required for the fuel cell-powered units.

By the end of 2012, IdaTech, using Ballards integrated fuel cell stack, will have more fuel cell backup power installations in Indonesia than anywhere in the world, demonstrating that fuel cell backup power matches or beats diesel in the most challenging operation conditions anywhere.

A huge export success for Ballard and Canada, the fuel cell solution for Indonesia’s telecommunications companies represents another great Canadian fuel cell win.

December 22, 2011 - 8:36 AM No Comments

First Oslo Fuel Cell Hydrogen (FCH) Bus in Testing

bus-stop_-Oslo

The first prototype of the CHIC FCH bus for Oslo is being testing in Belgium by Van Hool Bus Manufacturer. Buses for the CHIC cities are supplied by bus manufacturers (Daimler EvoBus and WrightBus, and Van Hool) which build each bus to fit the requirements for the operations within the city/region of the CHIC project.  Thus, Oslo buses are custom built for the deployment in the regular public transport fleet in Oslo with length of 13 meters long and fitting 37 seated passengers.

All 5 Oslo buses will be delivered to Oslo in March 2012. Residents will start to see the buses in regular transport service in the Spring 2012 in time for summer. The Design of the Oslo buses has also been chosen to display a large butterfly on the sides of the buses.

December 22, 2011 - 7:00 AM No Comments

Ballard Clean Energy Fuel Cell Modules Power BC Transit Bus Fleet Thru 1-Million Miles of Service

BC Transit1

- First-ever fuel cell bus fleet to achieve this milestone

VANCOUVERBallard Power Systems (TSX: BLD) (NASDAQ: BLDP) announced that the 20-bus fleet operated by BC Transit in the Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia and powered by Ballard FCvelocityTM-HD6 fuel cell modules recently surpassed 1-million miles (1.6-million kilometers) of revenue service.

The BC Transit fleet has been the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus fleet in operation anywhere since it went into service approximately 2-years ago and is the first hydrogen fuel cell bus fleet to achieve the 1-million mile revenue service mark. The buses went into service in January, 2010 prior to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and have been an effective showcase for clean transportation alternatives.

Paul Cass, Ballard’s Vice-President of Operations said, “We are pleased with the continued improvement in overall bus fleet performance over time and are delighted with BC Transit’s ongoing support of this important initiative. Many decision-makers in the global bus market are following the Whistler experience closely and will be interested in the results to date.”

By end-November 2011 a number of important results had been achieved:

  • The 20-bus fleet had operated a total of 80,000 hours;
  • More than 9,600 safe refuellings had been completed, by which 220,000 kilograms of hydrogen was dispensed to the fleet’s buses; and
  • 2,200 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were avoided, in comparison to diesel buses, which is equivalent to removing approximately 400 passenger vehicles from the roads.

About Ballard Power Systems
Ballard Power Systems (TSX: BLD) (NASDAQ: BLDP) provides clean energy fuel cell products enabling optimized power systems for a range of applications. Products are based on proprietary esencia™ technology, ensuring incomparable performance, durability and versatility. To learn more about Ballard, please visit www.ballard.com.

December 21, 2011 - 7:40 AM No Comments

APFCT First Fuel Cell Scooter completed 15000km On-road Test Drive

60070--15000km

Last Friday, one of our scooter in 10-scooter fleet in Demonstration and Verification Program of Hydrogen Energy Industry, sponsored by Bureau of Energy, Taiwan, completed 15000km on-road test drive.

In project, 6 scooters are for on road test-ride of 5,000km. One scooter is for the durability test of 5000km executed by ARTC and was completed by October this year. Three scooters need to accomplish 15000km on-road test. Last Friday, the first scooter achieved 15,000km target. This week another one is expected to achieve the target of 15000km. The whole project is expected to be completed in January 2012.

December 21, 2011 - 6:36 AM No Comments

Researchers discover a way to significantly reduce the production costs of fuel cells

Photo: Adolfo Vera

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a new and significantly cheaper method of manufacturing fuel cells. A noble metal nanoparticle catalyst for fuel cells is prepared using atomic layer deposition (ALD).

This ALD method for manufacturing fuel cells requires 60 per cent less of the costly catalyst than current methods.

- This is a significant discovery, because researchers have not been able to achieve savings of this magnitude before with materials that are commercially available, says Docent Tanja Kallio of Aalto University.

Fuel cells could replace polluting combustion engines that are presently in use. However, in a fuel cell, chemical processes must be sped up by using a catalyst. The high price of catalysts is one of the biggest hurdles to the wide adoption of fuel cells at the moment.

The most commonly used fuel cells cover anode with expensive noble metal powder which reacts well with the fuel. By using the Aalto University researchers’ ALD method, this cover can be much thinner and more even than before which lowers costs and increases quality.

With this study, researchers are developing better alcohol fuel cells using methanol or ethanol as their fuel. It is easier to handle and store alcohols than commonly used hydrogen. In alcohol fuel cells, it is also possible to use palladium as a catalyst.

The most common catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells is platinum, which is twice as expensive as palladium. This means that alcohol fuel cells and palladium will bring a more economical product to the market.

Fuel cells can create electricity that produces very little or even no pollution. They are highly efficient, making more energy and requiring less fuel than other devices of equal size. They are also quiet and require low maintenance, because there are no moving parts.

In the future, when production costs can be lowered, fuel cells are expected to power electric vehicles and replace batteries, among other things. Despite their high price, fuel cells have already been used for a long time to produce energy in isolated environments, such as space crafts. These results are based on preliminary testing with fuel cell anodes using a palladium catalyst. Commercial production could start in 5-10 years.

This study was published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. The research has been funded by Aalto University’s MIDE research program and the Academy of Finland.

Journal reference:  Atomic Layer Deposition Preparation of Pd Nanoparticles on a Porous Carbon Support for Alcohol Oxidation. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2011, 115, 23067–23073. dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp2083659

December 21, 2011 - 6:00 AM No Comments

SC Launch Client Company Technology Used at US Department of Energy Holiday Party-Trulite’s Fuel Cell Powered Christmas Tree and Decorations at the Annual Event

CHARLESTON, S.C. – SC Launch client company Trulite was highlighted at the annual US Department of Energy (DoE) holiday party. The hydrogen fuel cell company provided its portable, Hydrocell units to power the Christmas tree and other decorations at the event. The guests included Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Department leadership and other employees. According to the DoE statement, this was the first time ever that “the lights used to decorate the holiday tree were powered by a clean, efficient fuel cell.”

Trulite initially moved to South Carolina in 2008. With help from SCRA Technology Ventures’ SC Launch program and business, academic and economic development partners throughout the state, the company moved its manufacturing and administration operations to Columbia, SC in early 2010. Assuming satisfactory future progress, Trulite has projected approximately 1,000 high-paying jobs will be created in the Midlands over the next several years.

“We congratulate Trulite for their most recent successful demonstration,” said SCRA CEO Bill Mahoney. “Through our SC Launch program, we continue to make thoughtful investments in companies throughout the state that create jobs, further technology and advance South Carolina’s Knowledge Economy. Given the DoE’s skepticism regarding fuel cells at the beginning of the Obama administration, this achievement also shows that high-caliber SC Launch companies can have profound, positive impacts on federal energy policy.”

About SCRA

http://www.scra.org/

SCRA is an applied research company with over 28 years of experience in delivering technology solutions with high returns on investment to federal and corporate clients. Our Applied R&D division manages over 100 national and international programs worth $1.5 billion in contract value, and our technology-based economic development division helps early-stage companies to commercialize innovations and create jobs. In support of our mission, SCRA builds and manages research facilities that include wet labs, secure rooms for sensitive work and advanced, high-tech manufacturing shops.

December 20, 2011 - 3:17 PM No Comments

Fuel Cell Powers Up Festivities at Secretary Chu’s Holiday Party

121411_xmas_party

By:Sunita Satyapal

Program Manager, Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technology Program

Employees at the Energy Department’s annual holiday party were greeted with many familiar sights – festive decorations, sugar cookies, and a tree in sparkling lights.  In addition to the traditional holiday fare, guests were presented with something new. For the first time ever, the lights used to decorate the holiday tree were powered by a clean, efficient fuel cell.

Fuel cells produce clean electricity from a number of domestic fuels, including renewables, natural gas, and hydrogen, and can provide power for virtually any application—from cars and buses to holiday lights. Fuel cells work like batteries, but they do not run down or need recharging. They produce electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.

The portable fuel cell used at this year’s holiday party is made by Trulite.  The fuel cell generates about 150 watts of power—making it ideal for recharging laptops, cell phones, and other everyday appliances.

Continued widespread use of hydrogen and fuel cells could play a substantial role in overcoming our nation’s key energy challenges—including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption as well as improving air quality. Energy Department funding has led to over 300 U.S. hydrogen and fuel cell patents and directly contributed to bringing over 30 commercial technologies to the market place.

Incorporating clean, renewable technologies into time-honored traditions right at the Energy Department’s headquarters is something that resonates with employees. “It’s great to see fuel cells used in a more domestic setting that people can relate to,” said Kristen Abkemeier.  Shannon Shea, another holiday party attendee, added, “It’s one of the ways DOE is walking the walk.”

December 20, 2011 - 12:10 PM No Comments

Hexagon Composites takes the lead in the development of hydrogen in the U.S

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) yesterday announced that they will fund more than $7 million to advance hydrogen storage technologies to be used in fuel cell electric vehicles. The 3-year project will fund four projects in California, Washington and Oregon. Hexagon Composites’ business unit Lincoln Composites is nominated to participate in one of the four projects to reduce the costs associated with compressed hydrogen storage systems.

Hexagon Composites is an international leader in technology development of storage systems for hydrogen and has gained extensive experience in the field. The Group has developed the first generation composite containers, and the company is actively working to set guidelines for the further development of composite containers for the storage of hydrogen under high pressure.

Hexagon Composites sees a great potential for hydrogen as an energy carrier in the future, and has for many years played a key role in the development of storage technology for hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen under high pressure stands out today as the best and most cost effective solution for the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier for vehicles. Hexagon Composites is a partner in several projects involving the development of customised containers for buses, cars, filling stations and the transport of hydrogen. The participation in the U.S. state hydrogen project will be of great importance to Hexagon in the further development of effective and secure solutions.

In this project, DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in collaboration with Lincoln Composites, Ford Motor Company, Toray Carbon Fibers America, Inc. and AOC Inc., will use a coordinated approach to reduce the costs associated with compressed hydrogen storage systems. The project will focus on improving carbon fiber composite materials and the design and manufacture of hydrogen storage tanks. Through these advances, the team expects to lower the cost of manufacturing high-pressure hydrogen storage vessels by more than a third relative to current projections.

According to DOE the project will help lower the costs and increase the performance of hydrogen storage systems by developing innovative materials and advanced tanks for efficient and safe transportation. These investments are a part of DOE’s commitment to o help domestic automakers bring more fuel cell electric vehicles into the mainstream market.

Hydrogen cars are emission-free electric vehicles powered by fuel cells fed by hydrogen. The range of a hydrogen car is about 400 km, 3-4 times more than an electric car. Hexagon Composites’ technology enables high storage pressure with correspondingly large storage capacity in a limited volume for vehicles and filling stations. Hydrogen requires higher storage pressure than other gases at the same time as it is demanding in terms of materials. Pressure, weight and the need for large storage capacity has presented challenges that require composite materials, and Hexagon Composites is currently at the forefront of developing innovative products which the market has been asking for years.

December 20, 2011 - 9:13 AM No Comments

Fuel Cells on Gardening Duty with the EcoMotion Truck

Ecomotion

Four Danish companies have joined forces and successfully developed the fuel cell powered EcoMotion Truck, which has proved very useful to Danish gardeners.
Holstebro Cemeteries is a haven of peace and tranquility as any churchyard should be. What may surprise visitors is that the churchyard is a busy workplace for the gardeners, who work hard to keep the beautiful setting in good shape. However, they go about their work almost unnoticed thanks to a new Danish fuel cell driven electrical truck that runs in complete silence.
A mobile power station
The EcoMotion Truck is a mobile power station, powered by two HT-PEM systems (High Temperature Polymer Electrolyte Membranes) that run on methanol. As a result of not needing a humidifier, compressor and radiator as in LT-PEMs (Low Tempeature Polymer Electrolyte Membrane), the HT-PEMs have a very simple internal architecture. This both reduces costs and broadens the application scope and effectiveness of the fuel cell systems in terms of lower parasitic power consumption, improved CO tolerance and a broader operating window temperature-wise. The higher CO tolerance compared to LT-PEM makes it possible to use the liquid methanol as fuel, which is reformed into a hydrogen rich gas internally in the system. The fuel cell system developed by Serenergy is the first commercially available mobile-RMFC (reformed methanol fuel cell) system in the world, based on the HT-PEM technology.
Once the fuel cells are active, they will continuously and silently recharge the built-in truck batteries. This allows for gardeners to operate the EcoMotion Truck up to one week before the ten liter fuel tank is empty, depending on how intensely the truck is used. Thanks to the effective fuel cell system, the truck also produces power for an inverter and two built-in 230 VAC power outlets. Thereby, gardeners can avoid using long cable spools for e.g. the use of electric hedge trimmers.
Successful test period at Holstebro  Cemeteries
Cemetery Caretaker, Erik Søvndal, did not need to think twice before he accepted the offer to test the EcoMotion Truck:” We think this vehicle has three key advantages: It is environmentally friendly, quiet and it does not need constant recharging. The truck also makes our daily work easier and it gives our visitors a quiet walk around the cemetery”, says Erik. He adds that especially the continuous supply of power, which saves the gardening crew time, is an advantage:” Some days we are busier than others, so we run the risk that our current electric trucks run out of power by midday and have to be recharged. This typically takes four to six hours, and we do not always have time to wait. With the new solution, we just fill up on methanol, and we are up and running again”, states Erik.
The gardeners at Holstebro Cemeteries were so excited about using the EcoMotion truck that they have ordered a customized Ecomotion Truck for the cemetery. It will be delivered in September 2011.

Green dream of methanol as fuel
Methanol is traditionally made from wood and is also called wood alcohol. It is a very flexible fuel that can be blended directly with petrol to improve combustion properties, but it is also excellent as fuel for fuel cells. Methanol is currently produced mainly from natural gas, but in time will also be produced from a number of renewable energy sources such as biomass/biogas, household refuse and wind energy. In fact, surplus wind power can be stored as liquid methanol, thereby saving electricity for later use. It can also be used in the transport sector, which needs liquid, high energy density fuel.
Ecomotion 2
Behind the Ecomotion Truck is the EcoMotion consortium comprising a group of Danish companies. EcoMotion’s daily project manager, Johan Hardang Vium, from the Danish Technological Institute explains that the combination of methanol and fuel cells does more than reduce the impact of CO2, hydrocarbons and particle pollution on the environment:” This technology is particularly interesting if the methanol is produced from renewable energy such as wind power or biomass. If we use methanol to store green energy, this will benefit the transport sector as methanol can be stored and handled in the existing distribution system. This ensures the benefits of liquid fuel while making exceptional use of the energy via a fuel cell system”.
Fuel cells are an energy-efficient solution
The advantage of fuel cells is that the chemical energy is converted with high efficiency, low emissions and a low noise level. In addition, the technology is modular, which means that the efficiency is almost constant, whatever the size of the fuel cell system. The high-temperature fuel cells were chosen for the EcoMotion Trucks because the high working temperature makes the fuel cell less fuel-sensitive. Therefore, this kind of fuel cell can run on fuels such as methanol and natural gas and these are easier to handle than e.g. hydrogen.

Further, fuel cells can convert methanol into electricity and heat without any overall CO2 emission, provided that the methanol production is CO2 neutral. This makes fuel cells a highly eco-friendly alternative in energy production when (bio)methanol is produced from renewable energy sources. The low price on methanol on the global marked eliminates the hurdle of a high fuel price until biomethanol is produced in a larger scale. Currently, new production capacity for highly CO2 neutral methanol is on the way.

A partnership with a clear goal
The companies GMR maskiner A/S, Serenergy A/S and Energiselskabet OK a.m.b.a have joined forces with Danish Technological Institute to form the EcoMotion consortium. The consortium works to develop fuel cell driven electrical vehicles powered by reformed methanol.
EcoMotion took its first small steps in 2003 when GMR maskiner A/S began to investigate opportunities to create a stable, customer-oriented, future-proof work truck that, as a first priority, was not detrimental to the environment. The actual EcoMotion consortium was formed in 2010 with support from Danish Energy Agency and Danish Development Funds (EUDP, EnergiTekMidt). The EcoMotion Prototype Truck is the first fully operational product presented by the partners. Four other trucks are also being produced as part of the EcoMotion project.

GMR maskiner constructs the trucks used as integrators for the fuel cells. Oil and energy company OK supplies fuel and logistics, while Serenergy A/S develops and produces fuel cell systems. The Danish Technology Institute handles tasks such as project coordination, construction, tests and data collection.

Tested on baboons
The EcoMotion Truck has not only been tested at Holstebro Cemeteries, it has also proved useful in Aalborg Zoo, where the baboons had their daily meals delivered by the truck. The green keepers in the Danish Golf Club, Odder Golf Club, have had the pleasure of using the power from the EcoMotion Truck for mowing the green and at the large Danish music festival called Skanderborg Festival, the truck has been used for transportation of equipment and musicians between the different stages. A special towing truck for luggage hauling is also being produced for Billund Airport.
December 19, 2011 - 12:04 PM No Comments

Vodafone Ventures and Carmel Ventures Lead $9.2M Investment in CellEra to Bring Affordable Fuel Cells to Market

CAESAREA, Israel–CellEra, the leading developer of cost-effective Platinum Free Fuel Cell technology has announced today a $9.2M investment round led by Vodafone Ventures, the global venture capital arm of Vodafone Group, together with top-tier Israeli VC firm Carmel Ventures. The two have joined forces with the company’s largest shareholder Israel Cleantech Ventures, the leading venture capital fund focused on backing Israel’s emerging clean technology companies, as well as B-2-V Partners and private investors.

Ori Bendori, General Partner of Carmel Ventures who joined CellEra’s board said: “After a long period of exploration for innovative, unique and disruptive renewable energy technologies, we believe we found all these qualities in CellEra, which is our first investment in this field. We are happy to join forces with Vodafone and the existing investors. Carmel brings to CellEra strong expertise and worldwide ecosystem in the Telecom industry which is CellEra’s target market.”

“We are highly excited with this investment and the added value it brings our company,” said Ziv Gottesfeld, CEO of CellEra. “Beyond the available capital, Vodafone’s investment will serve to facilitate our approach to the telecommunications market place, and our ability to direct our cost-effective, clean-energy fuel cell technology towards the requirements of global telecommunication operators.”

Ziv added that while fuel cells have now been recognized as a reliable renewable power generation source allowing mobile network operators to reduce power generation related emissions and end-of-life hazards, wide market acceptance has been hampered to date by their high costs. CellEra’s goal is to substantially reduce these costs and allow a rapid return on investment through the development and market introduction of a new form of fuel cell technology, allowing the elimination of high-cost materials and expensive hardware in the fuel cell stack.

About CellEra

CellEra’s goal is to deliver a clean, efficient, and highly-affordable energy storage & conversion technology. The company’s disruptive technology is Platinum-Free Membrane Fuel Cell (PFM-FC) for which CellEra is a first commercial mover. PFM-FC alleviates the major cost components of today’s fuel cells, including the use of platinum. CellEra’s introductory product is targeted at the USD 3 billion telecommunications supplemental-power market, offering an affordable, clean and safe alternative to lead-acid batteries and diesel generators.  For more information, please visit http://www.cellera-inc.com .

About Vodafone

Vodafone is one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies by revenue with approximately 391 million customers in its controlled and jointly controlled markets as at 30 September 2011. Vodafone currently has equity interests in over 30 countries across five continents and more than 40 partner networks worldwide.  For more information, please visit http://www.vodafone.com

About Carmel Ventures:

With over $600 million currently under management, several successful exits, and a growing portfolio of promising start-ups, Carmel is among Israel’s top-tier venture capital funds. Carmel’s investments are focused primarily on early stage companies in the fields of Software, Internet, Digital Media, Communications, Semiconductors, and Consumer Electronics.  Founded in 2000 by pioneers and leaders of the Israeli high tech industry, Carmel provides significant capital and active, hands-on support through the growth cycle of its portfolio companies and is recognized as a true company building fund in Israel. Carmel, headquartered in Herzliya, Israel enjoys a worldwide network of industry, strategic and investment resources.

Carmel is an affiliate of the Viola Group, the largest technology focused Private Equity group in Israel with $2B under management. For more information, please visit http://www.carmelventures.com.

About Israel Cleantech Ventures

Established in 2006, Israel Cleantech Ventures (ICV) is the leading venture capital fund dedicated to providing value added growth capital to exceptional entrepreneurs building Israel’s energy, water and environmental technology leaders. The firm has over $130M under management to date in two funds and has completed 13 investments across diverse cleantech sectors, including waste water treatment, alternative energy generation, energy storage & efficiency, green building, smart grid and in technologies that enable existing industries to work in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. For more information please visit http://www.israelcleantech.com

December 19, 2011 - 6:12 AM No Comments

Acta Announces Grant Receipts from LIFE+2010 Project

Acta S.p.A. (AIM: ACTA), the clean energy products company, is pleased to announce that it has received confirmation that the grant receipts due under the first stage payment of the LIFE+2010 project will now amount to 450,000, rather than 330,000 as previously indicated, and that these funds have been received by the project leader and are due to be released to the Company within the next few days.

The receipt of this grant payment will be in addition to the 373,000 received earlier in December 2011 in relation to the NanoCatGeo grant funded project, bringing the total grant funding expected to be received during December 2011 to 823,000.

Acta is still due to receive a further €860,000 in outstanding grant monies relating to various grant-funded projects completed by the Company and its subsidiaries and expects that these funds will be received during the first three to six months of 2012.

December 19, 2011 - 5:51 AM No Comments

ACAL Energy Succesfully Commissions Innovative Fuel Cell System

ACAL Energy has successfully commissioned the first field test system of its innovative FlowCath® platinum-free liquid cathode fuel cell technology. The installation proceeded as planned at the Solvay Interox chemical plant in Warrington, Cheshire.

The system is capable of producing 3kW of gross electrical power, and will provide power to a remote environmental monitoring system located at the facility. In designing and commissioning the system, ACAL Energy has successfully met the requirements of a formal ‘HAZOP’ review and on-site safety requirements for installation at a COMAH 1 category chemical plant, ensuring an extremely high level of safety.

ACAL Energy’s technology eliminates most of the platinum in a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, replacing it with a lower cost liquid chemical. Fuel cell systems utilizing FlowCath® offer a clean and economic alternative to traditional fossil fuel generators in stationary and transportation applications requiring 1kW to 200kW of electrical power.

In addition to Solvay Interox, ACAL Energy is partnered in this project by Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, UPS Systems and the University of Southampton.

“It is always gratifying when the carefully laid plans come to fruition in such a clear and tangible way”, said Bob Longman, VP Engineering at ACAL Energy. “The installation provides a suitable showcase for the organisations currently considering FlowCath® technology for their applications.”

December 16, 2011 - 9:00 AM No Comments

University of Oregon chemists share $2 million with three other organizations to develop and test hydrogen storage materials for use in fuel cells

EUGENE, Ore. — University of Oregon chemists have developed a boron-nitrogen-based liquid-phase storage material for hydrogen that works safely at room temperature and is both air- and moisture-stable — an accomplishment that offers a possible route through current storage and transportation obstacles.

Hydrogen releases in presence of iron Reporting in a paper placed online ahead of publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a team of four UO scientists describes the development of a cyclic amine borane-based platform called BN-methylcyclopentane. In addition to its temperature and stability properties, it also features hydrogen desorption, without any phase change, that is clean, fast and controllable. It uses readily available iron chloride as a catalyst for desorption, and allows for recycling of spent fuel into a charged state.

The big challenges to move this storage platform forward, researchers cautioned, are the needs to increase hydrogen yield and develop a more energy efficient regeneration mechanism.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced new grants totaling $7 million to support projects involving hydrogen storage. Among them is up to $2 million to the University of Oregon for Shih-Yuan Liu to expand his efforts on the research described here. This UO grant also includes collaboration with the University of Alabama and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“In addition to renewable hydrogen production, the development of hydrogen storage technologies continues to be an important task toward establishing a hydrogen-based energy infrastructure,” said Shih-Yuan Liu, professor of chemistry and researcher in the UO Materials Science Institute.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which funded the research, is shooting to develop a viable liquid or solid carrier for hydrogen fuel by 2017. The new UO approach differs from many other technologies being studied in that it is liquid-based rather than solid, which, Liu says, would ease the possible transition from a gasoline to a hydrogen infrastructure.

“The field of materials-based hydrogen storage has been dominated by the study of solid-phase materials such as metal hydrides, sorbent materials and ammonia borane,” Liu said. “The availability of a liquid-phase hydrogen storage material could represent a practical hydrogen storage option for mobile and carrier applications that takes advantage of the currently prevalent liquid-based fuel infrastructure.”

The key is in the chemistry. Liu’s team originally discovered six-membered cyclic amine borane materials that readily trimerize — form a larger desired molecule — with the release of hydrogen. These initial materials, however, were solids. By tweaking the structure, including reducing the ring size from a 6- to a 5-membered ring, the group succeeded in creating a liquid version that has low vapor pressures and does not change its liquid property upon hydrogen release.

Initially, Liu said, the new platform could be more readily adopted for use in portable fuel cell-powered devices.

Co-authors on the paper were doctoral students Wei Luo and Patrick G. Campbell, and Lev N. Zakharov of the Center for Advanced Materials Characterization in Oregon (CAMCOR).

December 16, 2011 - 8:00 AM No Comments

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