UK-based company AFC Energy has developed an alkaline-based hydrogen fuel cell technology and tested it at a chlor-alkai plant in Germany, where they demonstrated it can generate electricity and feed it to the grid as efficiently as older, more expensive platinum-based fuel cells.
Ian Balchin, AFC Energy’s managing director, said: “This successful testing of our fuel cell system using proprietary, lower-cost electrodes, demonstrates that AFC Energy has taken the next step in the development of a truly low-cost, commercially viable alkali fuel cell system.”
AFC Energy’s fuel cell is based on Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) as electrolyte, enabling Hydroxil-ions to move around relatively freely, while cooling the cell at the same time. By reference, classic solid polymer electrodes used in PEM fuel cells don’t allow free movement of those ions, resulting in a higher resistance and less efficient transfer of transient matter from the anode to the cathode.
The KOH electrolyte also absorbs the water produced by splitting H2 atoms, but AFC strongly denies that the carbon dioxide absorbed at the same time leads to CO2 poisoning, a process that causes irreversible destruction. Instead, the accumulated CO2 in the electrolyte can be removed by simply changing the liquid.
AFC is working on developing a 50kW system for large-scale multi-megawatt installations, which is expected to be ready for field trials in the first quarter of 2011. Fuel cell scientist Dr Richard Dawson, former senior engineer at Ceres Power, has just joined the firm to help accelerate such development.
Currently, their next-step plan is to complete the upgrade to their development facility, which will allow them to manufacture up to 1,000 of the electrodes used in their KOH fuel cells, daily.