Renewable fuel cell

Proton Energy Systems is developing a regenerative solar/proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell demonstration system. The company plans to incorporate its Unigen regenerative fuel cell system, which includes a hydrogen generator, hydrogen storage tanks and PEM fuel cell, with a US Navy supplied solar photovoltaic array.

PEM fuel cells use a simple chemical process to combine hydrogen and oxygen into water, producing an electric current in the process. At an anode, hydrogen molecules give up electrons and form hydrogen ions.

The electrons travel to a cathode through an external circuit, producing electrical current. The proton exchange membrane allows protons to flow freely, but stops electrons from passing through it. As a result, while the electrons flow through an external circuit, hydrogen ions flow directly through the proton exchange membrane to the cathode, where they combine with oxygen molecules and electrons to form water.

The Proton system will incorporate a renewable interface, which can produce hydrogen from water using electricity generated directly by the solar array within Proton's Hogen hydrogen generator.

During a six-month testing programme, the solar panels will generate electricity during the day, part of which will be used to generate hydrogen, which will be stored in tanks. At night, the sunlight-produced hydrogen will feed the PEM fuel cell, generating zero-emission electrical power with water as the only by-product. The water will be recycled through the system to create hydrogen via sunlight again.

The goal of the project is the demonstration of constant, grid-independent power output through the use of a renewable energy system that can be remotely operated. Additionally, Proton hopes to eliminate the need for water replenishment and for a battery or other bridging device required for transitioning from solar to fuel cell power. It is hoped the system will prove successful as a completely sustainable energy system, which can be used in remote locations.

Proton Energy Systems (+1) 203 678 2000



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