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Content archived on 2024-04-19

Hydrogen from methanol for fuel cells in mobile systems - Development of a compact reformer

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The project aimed to develop a compact methanol reformer to produce hydrogen- rich gas as a fuel for a low-temperature fuel cell for use in road traction applications. Compact methanol reformers will solve the difficult problem of hydrogen storage. It will also enable the operating range of fuel cell powered vehicles to be lengthened to distances which are at least comparable to petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles. This is an important step in achieving public acceptance of the technology. Hydrogen is the only practical fuel for use in the present generation of fuel cells in electric vehicles. There are a variety of ways in which hydrogen can be stored, such as pressurised cylinders, hydrogen storage alloys or cryogenic vessels. However, these cannot really meet the safety and cost requirements of electric vehicles. Production of hydrogen from hydrogen-rich fuels such as natural gas, naphtha and others is a common technology in large capacity hydrogen plants. Unfortunately, these standard transforming plants cannot be scaled down to a size that could be accommodated in electric vehicles, and they cannot be reasonably operated under the transient boundary conditions of electric vehicles, such as variable loads, frequent warm-ups and shut-downs, etc. Moreover, the purity requirements of hydrogen for fuel cells are very strict, in particular with respect to carbon monoxide which ideally should be less than 10 ppm. As a result, it is necessary to use an alternative, easy-to- store liquid fuel, such as methanol, which can be converted to hydrogen on board the electric vehicle during its operation. It is necessary, therefore, to develop a compact and cheap reformer with a purifying capability.

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