Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A fuel cell for home: Tested in private households

Date:
June 11, 2014
Source:
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Summary:
It converts chemical energy directly into electrical energy. Still, there hadn’t been a market breakthrough for the fuel cell. The systems were too complex. Now scientists have developed a simple device for home use.

Production of the cell stacks at the Fraunhofer IKTS.
Credit: Fraunhofer IKTS

It converts chemical energy directly into electrical energy. Still, there hadn't been a market breakthrough for the fuel cell. The systems were too complex. Now, Fraunhofer and Vaillant have developed a simple device for home use.

Related Articles


"One always speaks of a fuel cell system," says Dr. Matthias Jahn from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden. A single cell doesn't produce enough voltage to obtain a sufficient electrical power. In a fuel cell stack, several cells are connected one to the other. Each of them is about the size of a CD. We call the groups ‚stacks'," says Jahn. Fuel cells convert natural gas directly into electrical energy. They are many times more efficient than are combustion engines, such as the car engine. These require an intermediate step. First, they convert chemical energy into thermal energy (heat) and mechanical energy (force). With this force, they drive a generator, which only then generates the electric power. In the process, a large portion of the originally available energy is lost.

Real-life test in private households

Together with the heater manufacturer Vaillant, the IKTS has developed a compact, safe and sturdy fuel cell system that generates electricity and heat in private households from natural gas. The researchers were particularly responsible for the construction of the prototype, the design of the overall system, the design of the ceramic components and the development of the reformer and the afterburner. The devices are currently being tested in private households in the Callux practice test.

They are as compact as classical gas heaters that only produce heat. Moreover, they can comfortably be mounted on the wall and easily be maintained. With an output of one kilowatt, they cover the average current consumption for a four-person household. The Federal Ministry of Transport and digital infrastructure BMVI is promoting Callux. Currently, in the European demonstration project ene.field, about 150 further units are being installed in several European countries. In addition, Vaillant started the production of a small-scale series in early 2014. Parallel to the practical test, the two partners are already working on new models. "Now, it's all about decreasing production costs and increasing the lifetime of the equipment," says Jahn.

The principle of the fuel cell has been known for over 175 years. So far, however, there has not been a market breakthrough. The main reason was the invention of the electric generator. It knocked the more complex fuel cell out of the running. Only in the 1960s was the technology put into practice by NASA in some Apollo moon missions. In the late 1990s, there were other projects in the automotive industry, which have so far not been able to prevail. The reasons are that the fuel cell is too complex, too expensive, and too unreliable. "In our project with Vaillant, we have made great strides to bring the technology close to the market. Vaillant is already producing a small-scale series, which is sold in funded projects to customers," says Jahn. "For the market breakthrough, the costs still have to be decreased significantly."

The miniature power station for home use is based on a solid fuel cell (SOFC). SOFCs operate at a much higher temperature in comparison to competing approaches, such as the proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which is used in cars, for example. While PEMFCs only reach 80 degrees, SOFCs can reach up to 850 degrees. "This allows the SOFCs to be built much more simply and cheaply," says Jahn.

The electrolyte of an SOFC only transfers oxygen ions, not electrons. Otherwise, there would be a short circuit. "Ceramic is particularly well suited as a material for the electrolyte. It has the desired conductivity and can also endure high temperatures," says Jahn. As a result, even without the use of precious metals, all reactions proceed smoothly, which is necessary for the direct conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy: If the fuel cell heater is connected to the gas network, a reformer initially converts the natural gas into a hydrogen-rich gas. This then reacts in the stack with the oxygen of the air in a noiseless "cold combustion," producing power and heat.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "A fuel cell for home: Tested in private households." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611093352.htm>.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. (2014, June 11). A fuel cell for home: Tested in private households. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611093352.htm
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. "A fuel cell for home: Tested in private households." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611093352.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Driverless Budii Gives the Wheel Feel

Driverless Budii Gives the Wheel Feel

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 6, 2015) The Rinspeed Budii Concept car is creating a driverless stir at this year&apos;s Geneva car show. It&apos;s an all-electric autonomous vehicle with a difference. Ciara Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Star Wars Inspires Mobile Holograms

Star Wars Inspires Mobile Holograms

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 6, 2015) 3D holograms could soon be coming to your mobile phone. Inspired by the famous Princess Leia hologram from Star Wars, a U.S. company is showcasing a prototype display at the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona and says it could be used for real-time video calls. Ivor Bennett reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Game Makers Lured Into Virtual Worlds

Game Makers Lured Into Virtual Worlds

AFP (Mar. 6, 2015) Some 25,000 people have descended upon San Francisco to show off the latest technologies and video games at the Game Developers Conference. Developers here discuss the future of the industry. Duration: 02:20. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) The Dutch government has cut production at Europe&apos;s largest gas field in Groningen amid concerns over earthquakes which are damaging local churches. As Amy Pollock reports the decision - largely politically-motivated - could have big economic conseqeunces. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins