Archive for category Fuel Cells

Biofuel Cell with Enzyme Modified Electrodes to Produce Electricity

Posted by on Monday, 1 March, 2010

French scientists have found a new energy source by extracting electricity from Mother Nature’s original power plants — plants.

The green chlorophyll in plants helps them convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen in the presence of sunlight, using a complex series of chemical reactions that humans have never been able to replicate. But scientists at France’s Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal have created a biofuel cell, made of two enzyme-modified electrodes, that can generate electricity using the glucose and oxygen produced by plants during photosynthesis.

Inserted into a cactus leaf, the cell generated a charge of 9 watts per square centimeter, but the output is relative to light intensity, which means that shining a brighter light on the cactus produces more power. The researchers say this technology could one day be used as an environmentally friendly way to convert solar energy into electricity without the need for photovoltaic panels.



Zero Emissions Natural Gas Plant Using Solid Oxide Fuel Cells?

Posted by on Monday, 1 March, 2010

A new way to use natural gas could cut its carbon dioxide output to zero, making it competitive with solar or wind farms.

MIT Postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Chemical Engineering Professor Paul I. Barton have proposed a system which produces power from natural gas without burning it, and produces a stream of clean water, and almost pure carbon dioxide, making it easy to harness for sale to cement manufacturers now developing a use for it, or pre-separating it cheaply for Carbon Capture and Storage.
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It doesn’t take new technology, but just a new way to combine solid-oxide fuel cells, and has been demonstrated to work on a lab-sized 250 KW demonstration plant – about at 1/1000th scale of a typical 250 MW plant. Because fuel cells are inherently modular, once the system has been proved at small size it can easily be scaled up, and the inventors say the system could be ready for commercialization in a few years.

Natural gas currently accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. electricity production, and that is increasing as coal use decreases. Plants that used to burn coal are increasingly being converted to burn natural gas instead, so this innovation would likely be competing more with natural gas plants than with coal plants.


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Natural Gas + Fuel Cell (SOFC) – Cheapest Route to Cleaner Electricity?

Posted by on Tuesday, 26 January, 2010

Two researchers at MIT say they have what will be “the lowest price option” for power generation in the future if a carbon tax of about $10 per T of emitted CO2. (Source)

The duo – Thomas Adams and Paul Barton – have proposed a novel electricity generation process that combines natural gas and solid oxide fuel cells.

While the researchers claim that their idea could work also with pulverized coal, they feel using it for natuarl gas will produce the best results.

Their process contains a steam reformer that prepares the gas for use within the fuel cells. The reformer and water-gas shift reactor creates a fuel mix absent CO, thus avoiding the problems created by carbon deposition issues in SOFCs when CO is present. The CO2 that is generated will be “mostly pure”, according to the researchers and they also claim that it can be captured with very little energy penalty.

Simulation of their system has indicated that the lifecycle cost of this novel system is lower than that of a combined-cycle natural gas plant, even without carbon pricing. They say that even with a carbon tax around $5 to $10 per ton, their system would be cheaper than coal plants.

Now, the cost part of it we can safely ignore whatever the researchers say because real life is very different from lab simulations. But if the technology works smoothly, it could be great. As you will know, natural gas based power production emits much less CO2 per MWh when compared to coal and if the CO2 capture becomes cheaper and easier using an SOFC fuel cell with natural gas, so much the better!

Well, the one question is “what happens to the 50,000 power plants already existing?” Guess it is far fetched to assume that they will be delighted to shift fuel cell based power production from the current steam – turbine cycle they predominantly use. And imagine the capital costs for such migration.

The idea, if it works smooth and is techno-and-economically better off than other CCS ideas, could well get those developing new power plants mighty interested.

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CCS Breakthrough – Coal Gasification + Fuel Cells is the Future?

Posted by on Monday, 25 January, 2010

Of late, I have been hearing a lot on the virtues of coal gasification combined with fuel cells as a method for carbon capture. It is called “clean coal” by some.

The idea is fairly simple. Gasifying coal results in syngas – a mixture of CO and H2. When you mix this syngas with steam, the CO gets oxidized to CO2. Thus, you have a gaseous mixture of CO2 and H2. The idea is to separate the CO2 at this stage and send in only the energy carrier hydrogen in fuel cells to produce power. The result of such a process is pure distilled water. (A 1,000 MW power station they would produce over 2.5 billion liters of clean water a year, according to some estimates).

Thus, you have separated CO2 at (reportedly) low costs, and have an environmentally sound combustion that produces only pure water, which is valuable in itself!

As per this article, Australian clean coal tech firm Linc Energy and British fuel cell specialist AFC Energy are the latest to predict that coal gasification and fuel cell combination could revolutionize power production.

These two have signed a major new partnerhip which, it is hoped, will culminate in a demonstration project sometime in future. Under the alliance, Linc has been granted exclusive rights to test AFC’s fuel cell technology in conjunction with underground coal gasification techniques.

It is too early to sing the praises of this combo process because the cost components are still not known. But, with over 80% of the cost of CCS is incurred in the CO2 capture stage, the new process could potentially offer a cheaper alternative whereby the CO2 is already captured and contained, ready for injection into its storage area.

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