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Hydrogen - energy for the future

Hydrogen has long been an important and universally suitable raw material for the synthesis of chemical compounds and reduction reactions in metallurgy. Furthermore, hydrogen is used in the processing of crude oil into fuels and quality chemical products. In addition, hydrogen has the characteristic to save energy efficient and can be used for energy production when its needed. It can be stored in pipelines and/ or hold in tank vehicles for quick and easy transport. Hydrogen is by far the fuel with the highest energy density. The higher the pressure in a cartridge, the more energy in the form of hydrogen can be stored in it.
Comparison of energy sources:

 Energy source  volumetric energy density  gravimetric energy density
 Hydrogen  3 kWh/Nm³  33,3 kWh/kg
 Natural gas  8,8-10,4 kWh/m³  10,6-13,1 kWh/kg
 Methane  9,97 kWh/m³  13,9 kWh/kg
 Gasoline  8.800 KWh/Nm³  ~12 kWh/kg
 Diesel  10.000 kWh/Nm³  11,9 kWh/kg
 Methanol  4.440 kWh/Nm³  5,47 kWh/kg

Principle of Fuel Cell

The fuel cell is an energy converter with very high efficiency. Unlike in cogeneration equipment, such as e.g. combustion engines, a fuel cell converts chemical energy directly into electrical energy. The detour via heat and motion is eliminated. This principle was discovered by Christian Friedrich Schönbein in 1838. Since that time, especially since the 50s of the last century, many different forms of this energy converter has been developed. The function of such a cell can be illustrated by the following figure:

  The core components of a Fue Cell are two electrodes (anode and cathode) and a polymer membrane, which is located between these electrodes. At the anode, hydrogen is fed, this is decomposed catalytically in protons and electrons. The electrons are conducted from the anode through an external circuit to the cathode, and can be used as an electric current, for example for charging a battery. The protons pass through the polymer membrane to the cathode. There (air) oxygen is supplied, this connects to electrons and protons to form water.

E-mobility and Fuel Cell

Batteries and fuel cells can definitely have competing properties in certain applications. By using purely electrical applications an already established power network can be used. The battery as a direct current supplier can, compared to the fuel cell as energy converter, represent a simplification of the system.
The comparatively higher gravimetric and volumetric energy density of a fuel cell (including fuel storage) makes it particularly attractive for ultra-compact or perennial applications. But here is also a disadvantage of the fuel cell noticeable: in contrast to the more "flexible" battery, the fuel cell is ideally operated with a continuous power output - but many uses, from cars to mobile phones, have widely varying power demands. The solution is a hybrid system consisting of a battery and fuel cell: batteries are used to cover short-term peak loads, fuel cells usually takes over the function of the base load cover. These hybrid systems using the respective advantages of the fuel cell (continuous delivery of power) and the accumulator (discontinuous delivery of peak power without damaging total discharge) in an optimal collaboration. This symbiotic system design allows both a more compact fuel cell and battery.


Storage technologies for hydrogen

Hydrogen is characterized mainly due to its high energy density of an ideal energy source for compact fuel cell systems for mobile applications. Various storage media can be used, the selection depends on the specific benefits of the storage media within a define usage scenario. Pressure gas and metal hydride storages are among the most common and most sustainable forms of storage.
The development of composite storages (aluminum liner wrapped with carbon fiber) as modern compressed gas storage makes the storage of hydrogen at high pressures (up to 700 bar) possible. Particularly for applications in the power range of several kW, this storage technology can hold enough hydrogen. Complete system solutions (storage, including all safety equipment) are tested and certified available by appropriate authorities.
Metal hydride storages are assessed for their physical properties as very safe. The hydrogen is stored in the interstitial sites of metal alloys. The result is a substance which is known as the metal hydride. If the casing of the metal hydride is damaged and hydrogen leaks, the alloy cools off enough, until no more hydrogen escapes.


Filling stations for hydrogen distribution

The realization of a necessary and for the usage scenarios adequate hydrogen infrastructure can be implemented with a variety of approaches: the development of central stationary hydrogen fueling stations, the use of mobile filling stations (truck trailers) and the provision of changing machines for H2 cartridges are conceivable. All variants can both serve marine as well as terrestrial applications. The appropriate distribution tactic depends on various criteria: hydrogen quantity, availability of distribution sources, capital costs, operation required by end customers, etc.


Find more information

http://www.fuelcelltoday.com – The leading authority on fuel cells
http://www.h2fc-fair.com – Group Exhibit “Hydrogen + Fuel Cells” at Hannover Fair, Germany
http://www.h2messe.de – Industry portal for Fuel Cells and Hydrogen technology
http://www.h2gate.com - The forum for the hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and renewable energies

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