FAQ

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What is a fuel cell?

A fuel cell is a device that produces electricity through a chemical reaction. It converts hydrogen and oxygen into water and creates electricity in the process. Compared to a battery, a fuel cell doesn’t need to recharge as the chemicals needed for producing electricity are constantly added. It doesn’t run out. A fuel cell produces power as long as it has fuel to use.

When was the fuel cell invented?

The first fuel cell was invented in 1839 by Sir William Robert Grove, physicist and inventor. In a number of experiments, Grove proved that an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen could produce electricity.

What types of fuel cells do you provide?

We make High Temperature Polymer Eloctrolyte Membrane (HT-PEM) fuel cells. HT-PEM fuel cells are similar to LT-PEM fuel cells, but operate at higher temperatures (150-180 degrees Celsius). Our fuel cells are integrated with fuel reformers, thus making it possible to use a wider quality of methanol (higher tolerance to impurities).

Why is methanol a good choice in fuel cells?

Methanol is an excellent energy carrier, and it is much easier to store and transport than hydrogen. Therefore, methanol can be an excellent solution for storing energy from renewable sources like solar and wind. Compared to other liquid fuels, the methanol reformation process operates at low temperatures and uses less energy. Also, methanol can be produced in clean, CO2 neutral ways.

What kind of emissions do your solutions emit?

The exhaust from a methanol fuel cell system is hot air and CO2. When using green methanol, hydrogen is produced from renewable resources like wind or solar and the C02 for the methanol is captured from the air or from industrial production.

What is a fuel cell stack?

A single fuel cell consists of a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) and two flow-field plates. In order to obtain a higher level of power, the fuel cells are stacked. The assembly of cells is called a fuel cell stack. The scalability of the stacks makes it possible to customise them.

How does a fuel cell differ from a battery?

Both fuel cells and batteries use a chemical reaction to produce electricity. However, once a battery has used the chemicals inside it, it has to be recharged or thrown away. A fuel cell produces electricity as long as it has a supply of fuel. Keep the fuel cell fuelled, and you keep the electricity coming.

What types of fuel cells are there?

SerEnergy uses High Temperature PEM systems (HT-PEM). But there are also various other types of fuel cells based on different technologies. Here’s a selection of the most significant fuel cell technologies.

Low Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC)
Operating Temperature: Around 50-100 degrees Celsius
Electrical Efficiency: 40-60%

PEMFCs operate at a relatively low temperature, have high power density, and can vary output quickly to meet shifts in power demand. In applications where quick startup is required, such as automobility, PEMFCs are well-suited. PEMFCs can be scaled from several watts to several kilowatts and into larger systems. They’re fueled with hydrogen gas, methanol or reformed gas. PEMFCs can be applied for a variety of commercial applications within telecommunication, data centers and residential markets, to auxiliaries.

High Temperature PEM (HT-PEM):
Operating temperature: 100-200 degrees Celsius. SerEnergy’s fuel cells operate at 150-180 degrees Celsius.
Electrical Efficiency: 40-60%

HT-PEM fuel cells are similar to LT-PEM fuel cells but operate at higher temperatures. HT-PEM are often integrated with fuel reformers, thus allowing a wider variety of fuel quality. HT-PEM fuel cells are ideal for commercial use, e.g. as range extenders for electric or hybrid vehicles.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC)
Operating temperature: 60-130 degrees Celsius
Electrical Efficiency: Up to 40 %

DMFCs are similar to PEM fuel cells. Most fuel cells are powered by hydrogen, which can be fed to the system directly or generated within the system by reforming hydrogen-rich fuels such as methanol, ethanol, and hydrocarbon fuels. DMFCs are powered by pure methanol, which is usually mixed with water and fed to the fuel cell anode.

Alkaline Fuel Cell (AFC)
Operating Temperature: Around 23-70 degrees Celsius
Electrical Efficiency: 60-70 %

AFCs were one of the first fuel cells developed and were used on space missions in the 1960s to provide both drinking water and electricity. AFCs are easily poisoned by small quantities of CO2, for which reason they’re primarily employed in controlled aerospace and underwater environments.

Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell (PAFC)
Operating Temperature: Around 150-200 degrees Celsius
Electrical Efficiency: 36-42 %

PAFCs can operate using reformed hydrocarbon fuels or biogas. They’re considered the “first generation” of modern fuel cells and the first type to be used commercially. The PAFCs are usually used for stationary power generation, but can also be used for large vehicles.

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (MCFC)
Operating Temperature: Around 650 degrees Celsius
Electrical Efficiency: 50-60 %

Due to the high temperatures levels at which MCFCs operate, methane and other light hydrocarbons in these fuels are converted to hydrogen within the fuel cell itself. The primary disadvantage of MCFCs is durability. MCFCs are ideal for large stationary power and CHP applications, and are available as commercial products.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC)
Operating Temperature: Around 1,000 degrees Celsius
Electrical Efficiency: 50-60 %

The high temperature allows the SOFC to reform fuel internally. However, the significantly high temperature results in a slow startup process and requires significant thermal shielding to retain heat and protect personnel, which might be acceptable for utility applications, but not for transportation. SOFCs are best suitable for large stationary applications.

Where are fuel cells applied?

Fuel cells are used in many ways. In the 1960s, fuel cells were used for space travel, and since the 1990s, fuel cells have been developed for commercial and industrial purposes. Fuel cells are used as auxiliary power units (APU), for stationary backup power, as range extenders for electric vehicles and for distributed power generation, e.g. on boats or in smaller hubs.

Fuel cell systems are ideal for remote locations and in telecommunications as they have a high degree of reliability and high efficiency.

Are fuel cells a renewable energy?

Fuel cells are renewable if the fuel used is a renewable energy source. When fuelled by green methanol, fuel cells must be regarded as renewable energy as it’s CO2 neutral.

Is methanol safe?

Compared to gasoline and diesel, methanol is harder to ignite, it burns slower, it creates no black smoke, and it emits lower radiant energy, which makes surrounding materials less likely to catch fire.

Furthermore, our fuel cell solutions are fuelled by a methanol mix of 60% methanol and 40% water, thus making the fuel less flammable than pure methanol.

Methanol, however, is flammable and has the potential to react violently with oxygen – just like gasoline, diesel and natural gas. Therefore, it’s paramount to have the correct safety features and infrastructure.

For these reasons, we put a lot of effort into manufacturing safe fuel cell solutions.

We comply with all international safety standards and do everything to make sure that our customers are aware of the right way to handle methanol.

Can your fuel cell solutions be used in my home?

Currently, we don’t offer fuel cells for residential consumer use. Our systems are merely available for industrial, governmental and business use.

What is the cost of methanol?

You can find the current selling price of methanol on the official Metanex index.

How long does it take to install your fuel cell system?

Our fuel cell systems can be installed from scratch in less than a day. In case of system failure or repairs, a system can be replaced in less than 15 minutes.

Is it easy to repair your fuel cell systems?

It takes less than 15 minutes to replace a system. Repairs of normal consumable spare parts take around an hour.

How do I purchase your fuel cell solutions?

Please get in touch via our contact page.