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Remote power generation from fuel cells

EU-funded researchers have developed a near-market ready, portable power pack comprising a modular fuel cell and hydrogen storage system that is readily customisable.

Energy

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells provide a cleaner and quieter alternative to diesel generators and batteries for the consumer market. But, although the technology has been available for portable applications, uptake has been slow due to technological and economic barriers. Fuel cells need to surpass battery energy densities, offer faster refuelling and be cost competitive to successfully replace the incumbent technologies. Developing and demonstrating a market-ready portable power pack was the aim of the project HYPER (Integrated hydrogen power packs for portable and other autonomous applications). The power pack includes a modular fuel cell and hydrogen storage system that is flexible, cost effective and readily customisable for different low-power applications. The project team worked on a flexible platform to meet specific requirements related to power output, energy, fuelling options and cost. Specifically, project partners developed scalable polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell modules with an innovative portable power pack allowing the interchange of alternative hydrogen supply components. HYPER also involved pioneering research into solid-state hydrogen storage materials. Researchers focused on characterising and testing a variety of composite materials for portable scale solid-state hydrogen storage. A significant step forward in terms of energy density was achieved with nanostructured ammonia borane, confined within a carbon matrix. Specifications for lightweight, high-pressure gaseous hydrogen cylinders, were also developed. HYPER members subsequently tested proof-of-concept systems using the new technology. These include a portable power pack for semi-stationary applications with intermittent power needs and a field battery charger. Project work represents a significant move forward in terms of demonstrating the commercial viability of hydrogen-based systems. HYPER was in line with the objectives of the EU's Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative, aiming to accelerate market uptake of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Keywords

Power generation, fuel cells, power pack, hydrogen storage, HYPER

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