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Toshiba Revamps ‘Ene Farm’ Residential Fuel Cell

The new product of the “Ene Farm” residential fuel cell. The fuel cell unit measures 780 x 300 x 1,000mm, and its output of power generation is 250 to 700W. The hot-water supply unit manufactured by Chofu Seisakusho Co Ltd measures 750 x 440 x 1,760mm. It can store 200L of hot water at a temperature of about 60 degrees C.

Hideyoshi Kume, Nikkei Electronics

Toshiba Corp and Toshiba Fuel Cell Power Systems Corp announced that it will release a new product of the “Ene Farm” residential fuel cell for gas companies in March 2012 in Japan.

The power generation efficiency of the new product is 38.5%, which is 3.5% higher than that of the former model released in 2009. And the efficiency of collecting heat generated by power generation was improved from 45 to 55.5%.

As a result, the total efficiency, which is calculated by combining the two kinds of efficiencies, reached 94%, which Toshiba and Toshiba Fuel Cell Power Systems claim is “one of the highest in the world” (based on the low heating value (LHV) standard of city gas). Also, the companies improved the durability of the fuel cell.

For general consumers, Osaka Gas Co Ltd will start selling the new Ene Farm April 2, 2012, for a price of ¥2,604,000 (approx US$33,363), which is about ¥650,000 lower than the price of the former model. Osaka Gas will use Toshiba’s fuel cell unit but employ a 200L waste heat-powered hot-water supply/air heating unit manufactured by Chofu Seisakusho Co Ltd.

The Ene Farm has been attracting an increasing amount of attention since the Tohoku Earthquake, which hit Japan March 11, 2011.

“In fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010, slightly more than 4,000 units of the Ene Farm were sold,” said Osamu Maekawa, chief technology executive, Power Systems Company, Toshiba. “But in 2011, we installed about 6,500 units by the end of November. So, we saw a remarkable increase in sales volume, compared with sales volumes in past years.”

Toshiba aimed to sell 5,000 units of the Ene Farm in fiscal 2011. And it is now planning to sell 15,000 units in fiscal 2012. In fiscal 2015, the company aims to sell 50,000 units by improving the competitiveness of the product and reducing its costs.

Durability of 80,000 hours

Costs
For the new fuel cell unit, Toshiba and Toshiba Fuel Cell Power Systems reduced costs by 30%, said Yuji Nagata, chief engineer, Toshiba Fuel Cell Power Systems. For example, they realized an output power equivalent to that of the former product while reducing the number of cells used for the main body of the unit by about 15%. Also, they reduced the amount of platinum (Pt) used as a catalyst material for the unit by about 20%.

Inverter
The two companies separated an inverter and a control board in the former product. This time, however, they were integrated by, for example, redesigning the component layout and employing a multilayer printed circuit board.

In regard to the system package, the number of components was reduced by about 40% by, for example, simplifying the system and employing integrated pipes. As for the reformer, the two companies used the same product as employed for the former model. It is based on hydrodesulfurization, in which Osaka Gas has know-how.

Durability
In regard to durability, the companies realized 80,000 hours of operation, which was increased from 40,000 hours of the product commercialized in 2009. The warranty period of the Ene Farm is 10 years. And the fuel cell of the former product has to be replaced five years after purchase. The new product does not require such replacement.

Moreover, the frequency of required periodical maintenance was reduced from once in two years to once in three and a half years. And, for the new product, maintenance (such as replacing filters and resin films) takes only about 30 minutes. The checkup can be done even when the product is generating electricity.

Fuel
As fuel, the new Ene Farm can use liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as well as natural gas (NG) used in part of Nagano Prefecture and Hokkaido in Japan and 12A gas used in Chiba Prefecture, etc in Japan. It can also use pure hydrogen as fuel in case that hydrogen will become a major fuel in the future.

Self-sustained operation

Toshiba and Toshiba Fuel Cell Power Systems are considering introducing a self-sustained operation system so that the new product can be used even in the case of power outage. In general, the Ene Farm cannot generate electricity in the case of power outage. But the self-sustained operation system automatically shuts connection to the power grid and supplies electricity to appliances connected to special power outlets.

“If an external battery for emergency is added to an expensive fuel cell system, the price will increase even more,” Nagata said. “Considering how frequently power outages occur, we do not want to spend much cost for it. Therefore, we developed a system that can realize a self-sustained operation by using only a fuel cell.”

The self-sustained operation system has already been developed and is currently being tested, he said. So, it has not been mounted in the new Ene Farm yet. After finishing the test, the company will equip the Ene Farm with the system as an option, etc. And it is scheduled to be released in fiscal 2012.

January 24, 2012 - 2:00 PM No Comments

HyperSolar to Make Zero Carbon Renewable Hydrogen Gas

Rather than using conventional fossil fuel as a feedstock, the company’s breakthrough technology uses the power of the Sun and wastewater to produce carbon-free, renewable hydrogen gas

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.–HyperSolar, Inc. (OTCBB: HYSR), the developer of a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen and natural gas using water and solar power, today announced that its proprietary process can make zero carbon, renewable hydrogen gas. Rather than using conventional fossil fuel, such as natural gas, as a feedstock, HyperSolar relies on the power of the Sun and wastewater to produce carbon free, renewable hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen is the most useful and abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe’s chemical elemental mass. However, naturally occurring elemental hydrogen is relatively rare on Earth and hydrogen gas is most often produced using fossil fuels. Industrial production is mainly from the steam reforming of natural gas and is usually employed near its production site, with the two largest uses being crude oil processing (hydrocracking) and ammonia production, mostly for the fertilizer market.

Tim Young, HyperSolar CEO, commented, “The world is short on free hydrogen and unfortunately, to make up for this shortage, the world uses fossil fuels to produce hydrogen gas. We are developing a cleaner and greener way to produce this high value product. HyperSolar’s hydrogen is completely carbon free, made by using the power of the Sun and wastewater. Not only are we mitigating the high cost of wastewater treatment, but we are creating the ultimate clean fuel.”

In addition to the many industrial uses of hydrogen, one of the most intriguing uses is for fuel cells for transportation. A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent, using hydrogen as the most common fuel. Although there are currently no fuel cell vehicles available for commercial sale, carmakers are hopeful that hydrogen fuel cells and infrastructure technologies will be developed in the future.

Young concluded, “Our method of producing hydrogen could be the missing link for fuel cells of the future. If hydrogen is meant to be the ultimate fuel that will enable a clean energy future with zero carbon emissions, then its production must also be zero carbon. Powering cars with fossil fuel based hydrogen is not sustainable, not renewable and not much cleaner than today’s fuels. We believe our low cost zero carbon hydrogen is the right way to realize a true hydrogen economy.”

About HyperSolar, Inc.

HyperSolar is developing a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen and natural gas using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. These renewable gases can be used as direct replacements for traditional hydrogen and natural gas to power the world, without drilling or fracking, while mitigating CO2 emissions. Inspired by photosynthesis that plants use to effortlessly harness the power of the Sun, we are developing a novel solar-powered nanoparticle system that mimics photosynthesis to produce renewable hydrogen from water. This hydrogen can then be reacted with carbon dioxide in a proprietary low cost reactor to produce methane, the primary component in pipeline natural gas. From sunrise to sunset, our proprietary nanoparticles will work in a water based solution to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable hydrogen and natural gas that can be collected for use in power plants, industrial plants and vehicles – anywhere and anytime. To learn more about HyperSolar, please visit our website at http://www.HyperSolar.com.

January 24, 2012 - 7:00 AM No Comments

Tuned Synthesis of Novel Polymer Gives Alkaline Fuel Cells New Potential

A new electrolyte membrane and the technique used to synthesize it could substantially improve the performance and cost of low temperature fuel cells. The work, by Clark School Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) graduate student Yanting Luo and former ChBE assistant research scientist Juchen Guo, was recently featured on the cover of Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics.
Luo, advised by ChBE assistant professor and University of Maryland Energy Research Center member Chunsheng Wang, synthesized a new polymer designed for use as the solid alkaline polymer electrolyte (APE) in alkaline fuel cells (AFC). AFCs are an alternative to the proton-exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). Like PEMFCs, AFCs can operate at relatively low temperatures, making them suitable for use in transportation and electronics.
AFCs have existed in various forms since the 1930s. While more efficient and lower in cost than PEMFCs, as well as capable of generating heat and drinking water as by-products, they require pure compressed oxygen and hydrogen to work and to prevent degradation if exposed to carbon dioxide. As a result, their use has often been restricted to sealed environments, including spacecraft. Luo says the development of a solid APE to replace the liquid electrolyte has inspired a “revived interest” in producing AFCs for the consumer market. Creating a more durable solid electrolyte with a high power output for AFCs is a key step in their commercialization process.
Using a technique called “miniemulsion copolymerization,” Luo and her colleagues created an APE that could be tuned (adjusted and controlled) for ideal mechanical properties and conductivity during the manufacturing process.
The polymer, QPMBV, was formulated from a group of basic monomer building blocks, selected for their individual superior functions, instead of using the more common approach of modifying an existing polymer. When the materials did not produce a consistent and durable product after reacting in a typical oil and water emulsion, Luo used a miniemulsion, in which the oil monomer particles were only 50-500 nanometers in diameter, instead of the typical 1-10 microns. The result was a more consistent and fine dispersion of the monomers in the water phase, which in turn created a higher surface area for bulk copolymerization reactions. A higher percentage of the monomers successfully completed their reactions, resulting in a product with both a high molecular weight and the qualities Luo was looking for.
“APEs still remain in their infancy compared to the commercialized proton exchange membranes,” she says. “This work is a significant advancement in the APE that will push AFC technology forward.”
Despite the challenges of developing the new material and striving for “a new ideal” over the past three years, Luo has found the experience rewarding as she has moved from a proof-of-concept to a promising material to optimizing production and now testing in an alkaline fuel cell system.
“After [working on] this project, I could be a polymerist, experimenter or fuel cell technician,” she says. “I feel happy with what we have done and hope this promising work could really make a difference in our daily lives.”
In the next stage of her research, Luo plans to further improve the mechanical properties and durability of the APE membrane, and to explore its potential use in other products such as flow and alkaline batteries.
Luo and Guo’s co-authors on the paper are Chunsheng Wang and Deryn Chu (Sensors and Electron Device Directorate, U.S. Army Research Laboratory). The work was supported by the Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Laboratory.
For More Information:
Yanting Luo, Juchen Guo, Chunsheng Wang, and Deryn Chu. “Tunable High-Molecular-Weight Anion-Exchange Membranes for Alkaline Fuel Cells.” Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, 212(19), 2094-2102 (2011)

A new electrolyte membrane and the technique used to synthesize it could substantially improve the performance and cost of low temperature fuel cells. The work, by Clark School Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE) graduate student Yanting Luo and former ChBE assistant research scientist Juchen Guo, was recently featured on the cover of Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics.

Luo, advised by ChBE assistant professor and University of Maryland Energy Research Center member Chunsheng Wang, synthesized a new polymer designed for use as the solid alkaline polymer electrolyte (APE) in alkaline fuel cells (AFC). AFCs are an alternative to the proton-exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). Like PEMFCs, AFCs can operate at relatively low temperatures, making them suitable for use in transportation and electronics.

AFCs have existed in various forms since the 1930s. While more efficient and lower in cost than PEMFCs, as well as capable of generating heat and drinking water as by-products, they require pure compressed oxygen and hydrogen to work and to prevent degradation if exposed to carbon dioxide. As a result, their use has often been restricted to sealed environments, including spacecraft. Luo says the development of a solid APE to replace the liquid electrolyte has inspired a “revived interest” in producing AFCs for the consumer market. Creating a more durable solid electrolyte with a high power output for AFCs is a key step in their commercialization process.

Using a technique called “miniemulsion copolymerization,” Luo and her colleagues created an APE that could be tuned (adjusted and controlled) for ideal mechanical properties and conductivity during the manufacturing process.

The polymer, QPMBV, was formulated from a group of basic monomer building blocks, selected for their individual superior functions, instead of using the more common approach of modifying an existing polymer. When the materials did not produce a consistent and durable product after reacting in a typical oil and water emulsion, Luo used a miniemulsion, in which the oil monomer particles were only 50-500 nanometers in diameter, instead of the typical 1-10 microns. The result was a more consistent and fine dispersion of the monomers in the water phase, which in turn created a higher surface area for bulk copolymerization reactions. A higher percentage of the monomers successfully completed their reactions, resulting in a product with both a high molecular weight and the qualities Luo was looking for.

“APEs still remain in their infancy compared to the commercialized proton exchange membranes,” she says. “This work is a significant advancement in the APE that will push AFC technology forward.”

Despite the challenges of developing the new material and striving for “a new ideal” over the past three years, Luo has found the experience rewarding as she has moved from a proof-of-concept to a promising material to optimizing production and now testing in an alkaline fuel cell system.

“After [working on] this project, I could be a polymerist, experimenter or fuel cell technician,” she says. “I feel happy with what we have done and hope this promising work could really make a difference in our daily lives.”

In the next stage of her research, Luo plans to further improve the mechanical properties and durability of the APE membrane, and to explore its potential use in other products such as flow and alkaline batteries.

Luo and Guo’s co-authors on the paper are Chunsheng Wang and Deryn Chu (Sensors and Electron Device Directorate, U.S. Army Research Laboratory). The work was supported by the Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Laboratory.

For More Information:

Yanting Luo, Juchen Guo, Chunsheng Wang, and Deryn Chu. “Tunable High-Molecular-Weight Anion-Exchange Membranes for Alkaline Fuel Cells.” Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, 212(19), 2094-2102 (2011)

January 24, 2012 - 6:44 AM No Comments

Air Liquide partner of UK H2Mobility

New Government and cross industry partnership to make hydrogen powered travel in the UK a reality.

A ground breaking project to ensure the UK is well positioned for the commercial roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles has been launched, Business Minister Mark Prisk announced today.

The new initiative – UKH2Mobility – brings together three Government Departments and industrial partners from the utility, gas, infrastructure and global car manufacturing sectors.

The group will evaluate the potential for hydrogen as a fuel for Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles in the UK before developing an action plan for an anticipated roll-out to consumers in 2014/15.

All of the partners have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to agree to share their knowledge and expertise.

Industry partners to the Memorandum of Understanding are:

  • Air Liquide
  • Air Products PLC
  • Daimler AG
  • Hyundai Motor Company
  • Intelligent Energy Limited
  • ITM Power PLC
  • Johnson Matthey PLC
  • Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Limited
  • Scottish and Southern Energy plc
  • Tata Motors European Technical Centre plc
  • The BOC Group Limited
  • Toyota Motor Corporation
  • Vauxhall Motors
January 24, 2012 - 6:00 AM No Comments