Nagold—The exhaust technology specialist Boysen, headquartered in Altensteig, and the DLR spin-off CENmat from Waldenbuch, will be joining forces: As part of the “EtOx-Cat” cooperation project, the two companies are researching the use of direct ethanol fuel cells for stationary applications. The focus is on catalysts that are to be optimized for this application. Boysen is advancing this project at the development site in Nagold.
Unlike conventional automotive applications, catalysts in fuel cells are not used as cleaning components, but act as a reaction accelerator for the decomposition of the energy source such as hydrogen (mobile applications) or alcohol (stationary applications).
The operating principle of the direct ethanol fuel cell: “By splitting alcohol – or ethanol – the cell converts chemical into electrical energy. The residual products are water and carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). The released CO 2corresponds to the amount that has been previously bound in the production of bioethanol. “Thus, the power generation is CO 2-neutral “, explains Dr. Schwan Hosseiny, the managing director of the spin-off CENmat, which spun off from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Stuttgart, more precisely, from the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics As an expert in customized nanomaterials in energy and medical technology, the company also deals with catalysts used in fuel cells.
With Boysen, CENmat has now gained an experienced partner from the automotive and commercial vehicle industry. In addition to its high level of development expertise, the Boysen Group also has a global production network. Worldwide, 4,200 employees at 20 locations develop and manufacture innovative solutions for exhaust gas purification and soundproofing. In addition, the group of companies in the BIN Boysen Innovation Center Nagold – alongside the headquarters in Altensteig, the second development location of the Boysen Group – also deals with innovations in the field of energy and environmental technology. “This makes Boysen a kind of dream partner for our three-member founding team,” says Hosseiny.
Because catalysts are needed in each fuel cell to accelerate chemical reactions, the difference in “EtOx-Cat” initially lies in the energy supplier: While hydrogen is predominantly used in mobile applications, methanol has been a widespread source of energy in stationary fuel cells However, people and several technological disadvantages are increasingly taking a back seat to the chemical compound, which is why the project participants are turning to the more advantageous and future-oriented ethanol.
The motivation behind this research cooperation is described by Dr. med. Andreas Dreizler, Director of Future Strategy at Boysen: “In direct comparison to the methanol counterpart, the efficiency and energy density of a direct ethanol fuel cell are significantly higher.” In fact, liquid ethanol seems to be more promising as an energy carrier, especially since it is comparatively inexpensive, better and more environmentally friendly, since most of the ethanol is made from biomass.
“The use of ethanol, however, brings completely different requirements for the catalyst. And that is exactly what we will work together to optimize the direct ethanol fuel cell for stationary applications, “said Dreizler.Concretely, one can imagine the technology, especially in compact power units or for the power supply of telecommunications equipment in infrastructure-weak areas The research project runs until July 2020.