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Showing posts with label Fuelcell cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fuelcell cars. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fuelcell power using Biogas

Fuel cell technology is emerging as a base-load power generation technology as well as back-up power for intermittent renewable energy such as solar and wind, substituting conventional storage batteries. However, Fuelcell requires a Fuel in the form of Hydrogen of high purity. The advantage of Fuel cell is, its high electrical efficiency compared to conventional fossil fuel power generation technology, using Carnot cycle. Fuel cell is an electro-chemical device similar to a battery and generates power using electro-chemical redox reaction silently with no gaseous emission, unlike engines and turbines with combustion, rotary movements and gaseous emissions. The fuel Hydrogen can be generated using a renewable energy sources such as solar and wind as described in my previous articles, “Solar Hydrogen for cleaner future” dated 4 July 2012, and “Renewable Hydrogen for remote power supply “dated 28 June 2012. Alternatively, Hydrogen can also be generated using biomass through Biogas. Biogas is an important source of renewable energy in the carbon constrained economy of today’s world. The biogas can be generated from waste water and agro-waste by anaerobic digestion using enzymes. Biomass such as wood waste can also be gasified to get syngas, a mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon dioxide. In anaerobic digestion, the main product will be methane gas accompanied by carbon dioxide and nitrogen while the main product in gasification will be Hydrogen, cabon monoxide and carbon dioxide and oxides of Nitrogen. Whatever may be the composition of the resulting gas mixture, our focus will be to separate methane or Hydrogen from the above mixture. In anaerobic digestion, the resulting Methane gas has to be steam reformed to get Hydrogen gas suitable for Fuel cell application. In gasification, the resulting Syngas has to be separated into pure Hydrogen and Carbon dioxide so that pure Hydrogen can be used as a fuel in Fuel cell applications. As I have outlined in many of my previous articles, Hydrogen was the only fuel we have been using all these years and we are still using it in the form of Hydrocarbons and it will continue to be the fuel in the future also. The only difference is future Hydrogen will be free from carbon. We have to address two issues to mitigate Carbon emission, and it can be done by 1.Elimination of Carbon from the fuel source. 2. Generation of Renewable and Carbon free clean energy directly from solar and wind. One option to eliminate Carbon from the fuel source is to use Biomass as the raw material to generate Hydrogen so that fresh Carbon will not be added into the atmosphere by emissions .The second option is to generate pure Hydrogen from water by electrolysis using renewable energy such as wind and solar. Environmentally friendly waste-to-energy projects are becoming popular all over the world. But currently most of these waste-to-energy projects generate either Biogas (Methane) by anaerobic digestion or Syngas (Hydrogen and Carbon dioxide) by gasification. Both these gases require further purification before they can be used as a fuel for power generation. The Methane content in the Biogas (about 60% methane and 40% Carbon dioxide with other impurities) needs to be enriched to 90% Methane and free from other impurities. The composition of a typical Biogas is shown in table1. The resulting purified methane gas will be reformed using steam reformation in presence of a catalyst to obtain syngas; finally Hydrogen should be separated from resulting syngas so that it can be used directly into the Fuelcell.The common Fuel cell used for this application is invariably Phosphoric acid fuel cell. PAFC uses 100% Phosphoric acid in Silicon carbide matrix as an electrolyte. PAFC is a self contained unit completely enclosed in a cabin consisting of a gas reformer, Fuellcell power generator, Power conditioning unit and other auxiliaries. The PAFC is of modular construction with capacities ranging from 100Kw up to 500Kw as a single unit. It can be installed outdoor in the open and it can be readily connected to a piped Biogas. It can also be connected to existing piped natural gas or LPG bullet as a stand-by fuel. Any waste-to energy project can be integrated with Fuel cell power generation with CHP application to get maximum economic and environmental benefits. Hydrogen derived from biomass will be an important source of fuel in the future of clean energy; and Fuel cell will become an alternative power generation technology for both stationary power generation and transportation such as Fuel cell car or Hybrid cars. PAFC is a compact, self-contained power generation unit that is used even for base load power. The electrical efficiency of PAFC is about 42% .It is suitable for CHP applications so that the total energy efficiency can reach up to 85%.It is ideal for supplying continuous power 24x7 and also to use waste heat for space heating or space air-conditioning with an absorption chiller in CHP applications. The ideal candidates for PAFC power generation using CHP will be hospitals, super markets, Data centers, Universities or any continuous process industry.PAFC is currently used as a backup power for large scale renewable energy project with an access to piped natural gas. A schematic flow diagram of a fuel cell power generation is shown in Fig 3 using biogas at Yamagata sewage treatment plant in Japan. Biomass based Fuecell power generation has a great potential all over the world irrespective of location and size of the country.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Solar Hydrogen for a cleaner future

With recent announcement of the prestigious award to NREL (National renewable energy laboratory, USA) for developing SJ3 solar cells along with their industrial partner Solar Junction, there is a new hope and expectation that PV solar will become a major source of clean energy of the future.Togather with Hydrogen as an energy carrier, the PV solar hydrogen will certainly be a game changer. With increasing efficiency of solar panel from 17.24% up to 50%, and generating high pressure hydrogen using improved solid polymer electrolyzer, the sun and water will become the future source of clean energy replacing our decade long dependency on fossil fuel. There is also a distinct possibility of converting water into hydrogen by direct sunlight using photo-electrolysis as explained in my previous article, “Can we duplicate Nature’s photosynthesis for Hydrogen production?”’ dated April 2,2012. SJ3 solar cell uses tunable band gaps, lattice matched architecture with ultra-concentration tunnel junction to achieve the highest conversion efficiency of 43.5% with a possibility to reach an efficiency of 50%.This conversion efficiency is the percentage amount of solar energy converted directly into electrical energy. Such a high efficiency is due to the lens focusing the sunlight with 418 times intensity of the sun. There is no additional cost involved except the bottom Germanium layer of three junctions with Gallium and a dash of dilute nitride alloy. This small change boosts the bottom band-gap from 0.67 eV (electron volts) to 1.0 eV.The three layered SJ3 cell captures various frequencies of sunlight at various times and conditions achieving the best efficiency of converting photons to electrons. High pressure PEM Hydrogen generators producing 99.99% purity Hydrogen at elevated pressures are already under development. With carbon fiber storage tanks up to 10,000 psi pressure ratings, Fuel cell cars will become commercial reality overtaking Lithium battery powered electrical vehicles.PV solar Hydrogen will significantly alter the transportation and stationary power generation industries in the future simply because hydrogen has the highest heat value and it is absolutely clean. Age old centralized power plants using fossil fuels with highest carbon emission and water consumption has created serious environmental problems all over the world. Coastal power plants discharge huge amount of ‘once through’ cooling water into the sea at higher temperature and at higher salinity.Tranasport industries using fossil fuels emit high greenhouse gases due to age old, inefficient combustion engines causing global warming. Low humidity, high surface temperatures, dry conditions and lightning are perfect combination of conditions for bush fires similar to the one witnessed in Colorado mountain ranges. It is a right time to adopt distributed energy systems so that individual houses and business can generate their own power using PV solar and wind Hydrogen with no transmission grids and grid failures. It is time to replace fossil fuel with sun’s light and pure water so that we can hope for a cleaner future. We have all the necessary technologies and we need a will and concerted effort to make these changes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Concentrated solar power - a game changer

We acknowledge that solar energy is a potential renewable energy source of the future. The total energy requirement of the world is projected in the next 40 years to be 30 TW (terra watts) and only solar energy has a potential to meet the above demand. However, harnessing sun’s energy to its fullest potential is still a long way to go. Concentrated solar power (CSP) offers a greater hope to fill this gap. The main reason is the cost advantage of CSP compared to PV solar and energy storage technologies and their costs. The cost of PV solar has steadily decreased in the past few years. Though the cost of solar cell has come down to $0.75 per watt, the overall cost of the PV system is still around $ 3.00 per watt. This is due to the cost of encapsulation; interconnect wiring, mounting of panels, inverters and battery bank. The overall cost of the system will not come down drastically beyond a point. This makes PV solar still more expensive compared to conventional power generation using fossil fuels. People can understand the value of renewable energy and impending dangers of global warming due to greenhouse gases, but the ultimate cost of energy will determine the future of energy sources. In PV solar the sun’s light energy is directly converted into Electricity, but storing such energy using batteries have certain limitations. PV solar is suitable for small scale operations but it may not be cost effective for large scale base load power generation. The best option will be to harness the suns thermal energy and store them and use them to generate power using the conventional and established methods such as steam or gas turbines. Once we generate thermal energy of required capacity then we have number of technologies to harness them into useful forms. As we mentioned earlier, the thermal energy can trigger a chemical reaction such as formation of Ammonia by reaction between Hydrogen and Nitrogen under pressure, which will release a large amount of thermal energy by exothermic reaction. Such heat can be used to generate steam to run a stem turbine to generate power. The resulting ammonia can be split with concentrated solar power (CSP) into Hydrogen and Nitrogen and the above process can be repeated. The same system can also be used to split commercial Ammonia into Hydrogen and Nitrogen. The resulting Hydrogen can be separated and stored under pressure. This Hydrogen can be used to fuel Fuel cell cars such as Honda FXC or to generate small scale power for homes and offices. By using CSP, there is potential of cost savings as much as 70% compared to PV solar system for the same capacity power generation on a larger scale. Focusing sun’s energy using large diameter parabolic troughs and concentrators, one can generate high temperatures. Dishes can typically vary in size and configuration from a small diameter of perhaps 1 meter to much larger structures of a dozen or more meters in diameter. Point focus dish concentrators are mounted on tracking systems that track the sun in two axes, directly pointing at the sun, and the receiver is attached to the dish at the focal point so that as the dish moves, the receiver moves with it. These point focus systems can generate high temperatures exceeding 800ºC and even 1,800ºC. The temperature required to run a steam turbine does not exceed 290C and it is quite possible to store thermal energy using mixture of molten salts with high Eutectic points and use them to generate steam. Such large scale energy storage using lead-acid batteries and power generation using PV solar may not be economical. But it will be economical and technically feasible to harness solar thermal energy using CSP for large scale base load power generation. It is estimated that the cost of such CSP will compete with traditional power generation using coal or oil in the near future.CSP has potential to generate cost effective clean power as well as a fuel for transportation.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ammonia as a source of Hydrogen for future cars

Synthesis of Ammonia is one of the remarkable achievements of Chemical engineering in forties. It is a precursor for Urea, the fertilizer that brought about ‘Green revolution’ in agriculture industry and helped to achieve record food production all over the world. It was a milestone in modern chemistry to synthesis a molecule containing 1 atom of Nitrogen and 3 atoms of Hydrogen, reperesented by NH3 called Ammonia. The Heber-Bosch process for the production of Ammonia is a well established, mature, commercial technology. The process uses a Hydrocarbon source such as Naphtha or Natural gas as the feed stock to generate a synthesis gas composed of Hydrogen and Carbondioxide.The gas mixture is separated into carbon dioxide and Hydrogen using PSA (pressure swing adsorption ) technology. The resulting Hydrogen is used to combine with Nitrogen to synthesize Ammonia. The chemical reaction can be represented by the following equation. N2 + 3H2 ---------- 2 NH3 The above reaction takes place at a pressure of 100-200 bars and temperature of 300-500C in presence of a catalysts. It is an exothermic (heat releasing) reaction and the catalyst bed is cooled and maintained at 400C to be efficient.Buth this process of Hydrogen generation using Hydrocarbon emits greenhouse gases. Alternatively, Hydrogen can be generated using different methods using renewable energy sources using water electrolysis. Such process may be used in the future for this application. Nitrogen is derived from atmospheric air. The air we breathe contains about 79% of Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. But these two gases can be separated by liquefying the air by cryogenic process and distilling them into two fractions. Alternatively, they can be separated using pressure swing adsorption or membrane separation process, utilizing their density differences. In either way, Nitrogen can be separated from atmospheric air. By combining the above Hydrogen and Nitrogen, it is possible to synthesis Ammonia on a commercial scale. The ammonia can be easily split into Hydrogen and Nitrogen by passing Ammonia through a bed of Nickel catalyst at 200-400C as and when required, to generate onsite Hydrogen. This Hydrogen can be used for power generation or to run our cars using PEM Fuelcell.As we have seen previosulsy, we are now looking for various sources of Hydrogen, and Ammonia is one of the promising sources for couple of reasons. The process and technology of Ammonia production, transportation and usage is well documented and has been practiced for few decades. It does not emit any greenhouse gases.Liquified Ammonia has been widely used in air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. Ammonia can be easily metered into any system directly from the cylinder. It is easier to use Ammonia directly into a convention internal combustion engines in place of Gasoline and this technology has already been practiced in 1880. Ammonia is pungent and any leakage can be easily identified. The advantage of using Ammonia as a fuel in cars, it does not emit any smoke but only water vapour.It can be admixed with Gasoline or used as 100% anhydrous Ammonia. It also helps in reduction of NO2 emission, especially is diesel engines. Ammonia has a great potential as a source of future fuels provided the sources of Hydrogen comes from water using renewable technologies or by photo-electrolysis using sunlight.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to generate Hydrogen from your tap water?

Hydrogen is the cleanest source of energy that can power your homes and fuel your cars. It can potentially substitute diesel and petrol or coal and clean up our environment. Hydrogen has been manufactured industrially for the past several decades and transported across thousand of kilometers by pipelines in Europe. The science and technology of Hydrogen is well known but its application to generate power and fuel a car is relatively new. The gasoline internal combustion engines that drive our gasoline cars can be modified to suit Hydrogen fuel. But the physical and chemical properties of Hydrogen gas created a necessity to alter existing gasoline engines for commercialization. But such conversion has been painfully slow for couple of reasons. There is a stiff resistance from gasoline cars to switch over to Hydrogen because they have a well established infrastructure to manufacture gasoline cars and to supply gasoline through well established distribution network. But Hydrogen cars lack both of them. Even if the cars can be modified for Hydrogen, there are no sales or distribution network for the fuel Hydrogen, similar to Gasoline. Even consumers need to be educated that Hydrogen is safe, environmentally friendly and we need not depend on import of oil and so on. It is a blessing in disguise that Hydrogen can be generated by individual homes, business and industries for their captive use from their tap water. Recently Hydrogen fuelled scooters have been introduced in the market. There are number of advertisements in the media too; that you can fit a Hydrogen generator at your car that will reduce your gasoline bills substantially and also reduce your emissions.But these Electrolyzers can generate only water gas and not a pure Hydrogen. Yet such simple devices can help reduce your petrol bills to an extend .If things are so simple why are we still struggling with high crude oil prices and increasing electricity bills? Let us examine this in detail. Water (H2O) can be split into Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2) by simply passing an electric current through water using a battery. The water disassociates as follows: 2H2O ------------- 2H2 + O2 Stochiometrically, it means 36 lits of water will generate 4 Kgs of Hydrogen and 32 kgs of Oygygen.The current PEM (Proton exchange membrane) Fuel cell car (Honda FCX clarity) can drive 100 miles with just 0.105 kgs of Hydrogen from 5000 psi Hydrogen tank. Similarly 4kgs of hydrogen can generate about 100 kws of electricity using PEM Fuel cell, based on a conservative estimate; but 4Kgs of gasoline can generate only 15 kW electricity. The gasoline engine offers only 100km mileage from 13 kgs (16lits) of gasoline. In other words, 0.105 kgs of Hydrogen at 5000 psi gives the same mileage as 16 lits of Gasoline. This is the amazing power of water, yet to be unleashed! The tap water is suitable to generate Hydrogen by adding a little amount of potash lye to improve the electrical conductivity. An Alkaline water electrolyzer can be attached to the water tank to generate required amount of Hydrogen based on the above calculation. The resulting Hydrogen has to be compressed to a required level. The power consumption to electrolyze water will be about 75-80 kwhrs per Kg of Hydrogen generated at 5000 psi.Therefore 4Kgs of Hydrogen will require a power of 300kwhrs costing about $30 for a total mileage of 3800 miles. You will require a small reverse osmosis unit to be attached to your water tap so that the water is de-ionized so that there is no precipitation in the Electrolyzer or reduction in the efficiency of electrolysis. Recently, Suzuki Bargeman introduced Hydrogen Fuel cell scooter which claims to offer a mileage of 200km from 12 lits Hydrogen (carbon composite material) tank at an elevated pressure of 10,000psi.The future of Hydrogen car is very promising and finally the world can hope to get rid of smoke and noise from our roads and cities.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fuel your car with Water

This article provides an overview on Hydrogen cars and how we can generate renewable hydrogen to fuel these cars. There are two well known brands of Hydrogen based cars already in the market, BMW7 and Honda FCX Clarity models. BMW7 works on Hydrogen Internal Combustion engine fuelled by Liquid Hydrogen. It is a 6 Liters V12 engine with 191Kw capacity and 390 N of torque. It offers 100km from 50 Liters of Liquid Hydrogen with a density of about 70-80gms/lit and and offers 100kms from Gasoline of 16.7 liters. It has a capacity of 170 liters for liquid Hydrogen storage at the rear end of the car. It can run both on Hydrogen as well as on Gasoline. Liquid hydrogen has a better power density but liquefaction is a cryogenic technology and consumes power for liquefaction. The storage tank also is of special construction because Liquid Hydrogen is stored at -253C. Honda FCX Clarity car is fuel cell car fuelled by compressed Hydrogen gas. It offers 100kms for 3.5 lits of Hydrogen (at 5000 psi pressure with density at 30gms/lit.). It has Hydrogen storage of 3.92kgs kgs with a total mileage of 240miles. Increasing Hydrogen storage gas pressure up to 10000psi, the Hydrogen power density is considerably increased making it comparable with liquid Hydrogen. Moreover fuel cell car is silent while driving because there is no combustion engine. BMW is able to use their existing conventional internal combustion engine with slight modifications suitable for Hydrogen so that they can use their existing infrastructure. But Honda FCX uses proton exchange membrane Fuel cell. It is an electrochemical device that converts Hydrogen into electricity which runs the motor for transmission of power. It is similar to an electric car in which power is stored in batteries and used to drive the motor for transmission. The only difference is the power is generated in Fuel cell car as and when hydrogen is supplied whereas in Electric cars, power is drawn from stored energy from the battery. We can inject pure Hydrogen along with Gasoline, CNG or LPG to assist the combustion to save fuel consumption up to 30% and to reduce harmful emissions. The conventional gasoline cars can be fitted with water electrolyzer to generate Hydrogen using the car battery. The electrolyzer currently sold in the market is quite different. They generate ‘water gases’ and not pure Hydrogen. They electrolyze water using pulsating DC current which essentially breaks down water into Hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The complete mixture of Hydrogen, Oxygen and undissociated water molecules are injected into fuel manifold of the car. The hydrogen will assist in the process of combustion to certain extend and help save the fuel consumption of gasoline. Renewable Hydrogen is a potential source for fuelling automobiles. One can use solar panels and simple tap water to generate hydrogen gas and store them under high pressure in cylinders. We will be releasing an eBook in the near future to design a suitable Renewable Hydrogen system and install them at homes and businesses for power generation as well as to fuel two stroke engines such as scooters and bikes. Initially the book will offer DIY kits to design and install power generation for homes and businesses up to 10Kw capacity electricity generation. We will be conducting trials on two stroke engines using renewable Hydrogen to get approvals from appropriate transport authorities for safety and usage on Indian roads. Hydrogen can be safely handled as long as we take appropriate safety measures as we normally do while handling petroleum products like gasoline or butane gas. It may look like a daunting task to fuel a car with Hydrogen gas but in reality, all necessary equipments and systems are commercially available including High pressure Carbon fiber tanks fully tested and approved.