Fuel cell technology has the potential to be used in many diverse markets with literally hundreds of self-sustaining niche applications, as well as many novel applications with unknown market potential. Based on HT PEM’s end use application and original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) market interest following applications and markets will drive the adoption and growth of HT PEM. The market with greatest impact will be:
Micro combined heat and power (CHP): Micro-CHP refers to the small-scale production of heat and power for commercial and public buildings, apartments, and individual houses. For existing buildings, heat demand remains high and the ability to retrofit many renewable technologies is physically limited. For such existing buildings, micro-CHP offers the next generation solution. Micro-CHP is better placed than ever to move beyond the early market stage and these systems are gaining increased interest from policy makers, utilities, and homeowners across a growing number of countries e.g. UK, Germany, Japan etc. Many of these systems are currently being fueled by diverse fuel sources such as natural gas, propane or methanol. The High Temperature PEM fuel cell is especially suited for these diverse fuel sources since it has the ability to handle high amounts of carbon monoxide contaminant without inefficient and capital intensive clean up common to other fuel cell technologies. Micro-combined heat and power (CHP) holds great potential for lowering energy costs and CO2 emissions since the heat which otherwise would have been lost is utilized for space heating and hot water.
Continuous & back-up power for telecom: The products and services offered by the telecommunication industry has become an essential part of our lives and economy. The industry is experiencing rapid growth globally that has introduced new challenges particularly with regards to service reliability. In critical backup power applications, such as data centers and telecommunications stations, even brief power outages can be extremely costly. Historically, these users have relied on the grid for the primary power while cumbersome banks of batteries and/or diesel generators have provided backup power. The drawbacks of such backup power solutions are inconsistent power, limited runtime, physical plant issues and high maintenance. Many of these providers are now, however, turning to fuel cells for continuous and backup power to lower their environmental impact, improve network reliability, and to reduce operating expenses through the use of more efficient equipment.
Auxillary power units: Fuel cells are increasingly being utilized as auxiliary power units (APUs) in specialized transportation applications that require hoteling loads for vehicles. The hoteling load is defined as any electrical power that is required by the vehicle for purposes other than the primary propulsion system, such as heating and lighting. The four main markets for fuel cell APUs are marine, trucking, aviation, and recreational vehicles. All these markets have the potential to use fuel cell technology initially in an APU function for vehicle hoteling loads but in the future the same technology can be used to assist the primary propulsion. APUs powered by a fuel cell system offers the benefit of reduced emissions, noise, vibration, fuel consumption, and size relative to conventional, internal combustion engine (ICE) APUs.
Portable power: New applications for portable fuel cell technologies continue to be realized across a host of market sectors. The largest and most obvious market for portable systems is the consumer electronics market, but there are a number of other applications as well. Portable fuel cells can provide reliable, high quality power during emergency response situations such as military, law enforcement, transportation safety, and surveillance markets, as well as to non-emergency situations such as remote construction sites, lighted trade show displays etc. Portable fuel cells have the benefits of long run times, instant refueling capability, silent operation and light weight compared to batteries. The technology is well positioned to compete head to head with batteries and fully replace them in almost every instance. They also offer environmental benefits when compared to the inefficient and largely combustion based power grid and are environmentally more benign compared to batteries when it comes to recycling.
Today, hydrogen is generated in large scale by centralized steam reforming of natural gas followed by a purification step, and to a smaller extent by electrolysis of water. More than 90% of it is produced and used on-site – especially in the petrochemical industry. The greatest cost for hydrogen production is storage and distribution. Technologies that would enable smaller, distributed hydrogen purification are limited to membrane systems. These suffer from high operational energy costs and an inability to concentrate or “pump up” the hydrogen concentration or pressure versus the source.
Hydrogen purification can be carried out by operating a HTPEM Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA) in reverse, that is, applying power whereby dilute hydrogen in a process stream is oxidized, protons selectively migrate through the membrane and then are reduced to pure hydrogen at the cathode. This process is greatly facilitated by operation > 160 oC, as many of the impurities found in the feed source do not impact the separation at temperature. The use of an electrochemical element combined with a membrane changes the process from a passive to an active one, and thus the hydrogen product can not only be pure, but at higher concentration than the feed. This capability makes the technology especially well matched to recovering hydrogen value from dilute feed streams that typically are flared or vented.
The world relies heavily on coal, oil, and natural gas for its energy. It is expected that the global energy demand for energy will double within the next 50 years. Fossil fuels are in finite quantity that will eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. In contrast, the renewable energy resources-such as solar energy-are constantly replenished and thus developing and adopting photovoltaic solar cells provides the solution. But the current status of PV is that it hardly contributes to the energy market, because it is far too expensive. Development of organic electronics in the last decade is regarded as one of the key future technologies that will open new applications and markets for organic photovoltaics (OPV). The market potentials of OPV, as described in the OE-A (Organic Electronics Association) roadmap, are arranged as a sequence of different markets penetration driven by the performances of industrially manufactured OPV devices. In this roadmap, OPV devices are predicted to successively enter (from short to long term): gadget electronics, outdoor recreational and grid connected applications. Other studies confirm such impressive market potential.
The OPV market is emerging and OPV devices sales are predicted to grow exponentially over the next decade thanks to their mechanical flexibility, low production costs and (optional) semi-transparency. The key property which makes organic electronics /photovoltaics so attractive is the potential of roll to roll (R2R) processing on low cost substrates with standard coating and printing processes. Within the market share distribution of different thin film PV technologies, OPV has the potential to become the leading thin-film PV technology.
The technological progress made in OPV development can be easily translated and applied to other organic electronic technologies since there exist an important synergies between organic light emitting diodes (OLED), thin film batteries (TFB) and more recently the emerging Organic Photodetector (OPD). For instance, both OLED and OPV have similar requirements concerning both technology and cost: same materials, process and encapsulation. With flexible substrates appearing, R2R technologies could be developed in cooperation with OLED. The emerging OPD field is even closer to OPV technology and could benefit a rapid technological transfer from OPV.
The heart of any electrochemical device is based on selective catalysts to promote desired reactions. For the fuel cell, oxygen reduction and hydrogen oxidation are promoted best through precious metal or precious metal alloy catalysts supported on high surface area carbons. When incorporated into gas diffusion electrodes (gas diffusion layer plus microporous layer plus catalyst coating), electrochemical catalysts find utility beyond fuel cells in areas such as sensors and reducing the energy consumed for industrial electrochemical processing.
Advent Technologies has catalyst and gas diffusion electrode manufacturing in addition to our membrane in order to control costs in our high temperature membrane electrode assemblies. We also make available our precious metal catalyst and gas diffusion electrodes for both fuel cell and industrial electrochemical applications.