Hydrogen fuel cells are one of the most booming industries for sustainable energy creation, especially as companies advance offshore electrolyzers and push hydrogen to fuel Industry 4.0. Fuel cell leaks are among the significant fire risks with fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and other machinery. Hydrogen leaks are undetectable with the naked eye, making these threats hard to identify without intention and even more challenging to contain.
How can ventilation manage hydrogen leakage in fuel cells to keep the industry safe and profitable?
What Are Safe Hydrogen Leakage Levels?
The market predicts the sector will be worth over $131 billion by 2030 as FCVs and hydrogen generation become industry staples because of governmental pushes. Businesses, workforces and consumers utilizing technologies powered by hydrogen fuel cells must stay aware of safe hydrogen levels and understand technologies that detect and moderate leaks.
Hydrogen leaks from fuel cells become combustible in a wide range of quantities, but a concentration as low as 4% could signify a safety concern. Its small flames could populate an area rapidly without workers noticing and its molecular structure allows for high maneuverability through many material types.
Uncovering how to prevent or manage hydrogen leaks in fuel cells consistently will increase its sustainability and scalability as a renewable energy worthy of global investment. Additionally, safer conditions will allow facilities of all sizes to abide better by worker safety standards and sector compliance.
How Does Ventilation Help Safety?
Ventilation solves several issues for leak management, especially for enclosed spaces where it is most dangerous. Instead of attempting to capture the hydrogen, vents and fans are swift solutions for dispersing concentrated amounts of hydrogen from fuel cell leaks into open spaces to eliminate its flammability. These are practical solutions, especially for emergencies when other detection methods fail to react.
One solution is unlikely to act as a panacea, but it encompasses several of the following priorities for leak management:
- Inexpensive and easy to install
- Long shelf life
- Sufficient response time
- Notifies workers with sensory cues
Vents achieve this through passive or active models, dispersing concentrated leaks and controlling buildup, respectively. Passive ventilation uses eave vents and large openings to keep hydrogen stores managed. Active ventilation adds a safety net if passive ventilation is not minimizing risk quickly enough. These systems employ fans to push hydrogen while forcibly shutting down the fuel cell, allowing workers to perform leak discovery and remediation.
Are There Other Technologies Helping Vents?
For decades, scientists in aerospace and engineers in the automotive sector have tested methods for accurate and consistent hydrogen leak detection, including thermal conductivity, glow plugs and bubble testing, to name a few. However, they all have shortcomings, like an inability for ongoing observation.
Sensor technology and other peripherals could amplify the value of ventilation when curbing the effects of fuel cell leakage. Experiments with detection tape and smart coatings provide visual cues for observers by changing color through oxidation. These tools and other sensors notify of an otherwise disguised threat.
Installing any technologies that can sound alarms, make distinct visual alerts or connect to smart technologies to send notifications will allow faster leak response time. However, ventilation is crucial for these technologies to matter, as vents are the tool allowing controlled dispersal of hydrogen leaks.
The Key to Fuel Cell Safety Is Ventilation
The hydrogen fuel cell industry must implement several protective measures to handle fuel cell leakage and one of the most essential is ventilation. Because hydrogen is not toxic to the atmosphere, it is one of the most sensible solutions for minimizing risks in working with this valuable renewable energy. Coupling ventilation with other detection methods will create an even safer environment for those working with these invisible gases.
Read the most up to date Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Industry news at FuelCellsWorks
Jane Marsh, Contributor
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.